Lectionary Year A
August 4, 2002
Genesis 32:22-31

Hermeneutical Bridge


We can list the salient features as they appear in the story - Jacob takes care of his household - people and things. He spends the night alone. He wrestles. He converses with his wrestling partner. His name gets changed and he gets blessed. He names the place. I still think the "center of gravity" is the blessing.

The major concerns are the being with whom Jacob wrestles and the dialogue in which they engage, including questions, those answered and those remaining unanswered.

A major/minor concern is Jacob's conversion, someone in PBS' series on Genesis, Bill Moyers moderated and published, suggests he is evolved rather than converted.

The minor concerns include that Jacob protects his family and household and is alone, it is at night and the dawn breaks as a signal to conclude the skirmish.


21 The presents passed on before him and he spent that night in the camp. 22 That very night, Jacob got up and sent his wives, his servants and the children as well as all his possessions over the Jabbok. 23 And he sent them, therefore, with all his belongings. 24 And Jacob stayed there alone and he wrestled with someone until dawn. 25 And the opponent discerned that he could not prevail against Jacob, so he struck Jacob's thigh-joint and dislocated it. 26 Then Jacob's opponent cried, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But, Jacob replied, "I'll never let you go until you bless me." 27 Then Jacob asked, "What is your name, anyway?" 28 And he replied, "No longer shall your name be Jacob, rather it shall be Israel because you have wrestled with God, and, what's more, you have prevailed." 30 And asked Jacob, saying, "Why is it you ask my name?" And he blessed him right then and there. 31 And Jacob called the place Piniel because he had seen God there face to face and even so God had preserved his life.


This great story reminds me of the struggles in life I have due to multiple sclerosis. That struggle is similar to those others encounter daily in their lives, too. We all face pains, problems, difficulties with which we wrestle all the time. While we think, inevitably of Jesse Ventura, professional fighter turned Governor, others represent struggles in their lives, as well. What about Woodie Guthrie's "fighting for unions"? Our son's college soccer coach died this week of esophageal cancer. We suffer grief with him and his teammates. Others die day in and day out and leave families and friends to wrestle through grief.

Then, too, as this pericope climaxes in the blessing, God blesses us with increasing awareness of divine presence that convinces us we are never alone. God was there with Jacob. Some of the 8 participants in the PBS series on Genesis referred to Jacob as duplicitous and wounded even after the wrestling match had concluded. We remain troubled and challenged always, as well. God is here and there and everywhere with us, too. God blesses us - i.e. gives us peace with which to face/wrestle with all challenges, all pressures, all stresses, all tensions. They are there and so is God.

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