Monday, May 6, 2013

Genesis 32: Jacob Kicks Gods Ass

Check out today's episode

Jacob Fears Esau (v. 1-21)

Jacob was heading to his homeland after 20 years being away. He was still afraid of Esau from their last encounter so he sent some messengers ahead to let Esau know Jacob is back in town and to grovel a bit. The messengers returned saying that Esau is heading this way with 400 men. Jacob is obviously scared by this. He splits his people into 2 camps, thinking that if one is attacked the other can get away. He also sent a whole bunch of livestock toward Esau as a gift to try to calm him down.

I find it interesting that it was reported the Esau was coming with 400 men but it doesn't explicitly say he is still angry. Is Esau coming to kick Jacob's ass, or is there going to be a twist where Esau was just coming to greet a brother he hasn't seen in 20 years? Presumably we will see.

Jacob Wrestles with God (v. 22-32)

Jacob took his wives and children to safety across the river. Then he was left alone and he started wrestling with a man who turned out to be God. God didn't prevail against Jacob so he touched his hip and Jacob's hip poped out of the socket at that point. God then asked for Jacob to let him go, but Jacob refused unless God blessed him. God then named him Israel because he has prevailed against God and man and he blessed him. Because of this story the people of Israel don't eat the sinew of the thigh on the hip socket.

What?! There's so much ridiculous stuff here, let's enumerate it

  1. So God decided to wrap himself in a human body wrestle with Jacob for what reason exactly? I bet the Christian commentaries are going to say this is Jesus! 
  2. God lost. I'm sure they will say he threw the fight.
  3. God used his power to pop Jacob's hip out of socket but still had to ask to be let go
  4. Jacob insisted on getting another blessing from a God who can't beat him at wrestling
  5. Why exactly does this translate into that particular food being off limits?
1. I was right, Guzik says that this is another appearance of Jesus in the old testament
2. Again, this wasn't too hard to predict, but Guzik says roughly was I had guessed
Sometimes we feel man really can contend with God. A man or woman in rebellion against God might seem to do pretty well. The “match” is even in appearance only. God can turn the tide at any moment, and is allows the “match” to go own for His own purposes.
Obviously this would have to be their take on this passage, although he also said this, which puzzles me
It isn’t hard to imagine Jacob working so hard and feeling he is getting the best of his “opponent,” until finally the Man turns the tide in an instant. Jacob must have felt very defeated.
When exactly did God turn the tide here? I read the passage again and don't see this. It seems to me that Jacob just won hands down. Actually, I think Guzik's analysis is pretty ridiculous here, I'm going to go through it point by point. It looks to me like he's injecting a lot into the passage that simply isn't there. Indented things will be stuff from his commentary and quotes will be him quoting the bible
"Let Me go, for the day breaks": The Man let Jacob know this won’t go on forever. Even though Jacob clung to him desperately, Jacob has lost. A better, greater Man defeated Jacob.
In the story God asks Jacob to let him go, he interprets this as "God has won"
"I will not let You go unless You bless me": This wasn’t Jacob dictating terms to God as he did on previous occasions. God did overcome Jacob here
It seems exactly like Jacob dictating terms to God.
"For you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed": Jacob prevailed in the sense that he endured through his struggle until God thoroughly conquered him. When you battle with God, you only win by losing and by not giving up until you know you have lost. This is how Jacob prevailed.
When exactly in this story did it say God won? Because I don't see it.
"And He blessed him there": Surely, this was the blessing of being defeated by God. It was the blessing of the passing of the old (Jacob) life, and the coming of a new (Israel) life. It may also have had to do with the great idea of the blessing of Abraham, and meeting Jacob’s immediate needs for security in the midst of fear. Whatever Jacob needed, God’s blessing provided at the moment.
Or perhaps it is the blessing you get when you defeat God. That is certainly what the story seems to actually say.

For the verses of note post;


Genesis 32:32 Jews can't eat the sinew of the thigh on the hip socket

"Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh."

Genesis 32:26 God loses a wrestling match with Jacob, clearly not omnipotent

"Then [God] said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."


  1. I'm wondering if the being that Jacob wrestled with wasn't a local river spirit or minor deity who got ret-conned into God. It would certainly explain how Jacob could have triumphed, if it wasn't that powerful of a being to begin with, originally.

    As for Jacob's hip getting dislocated, (1) would that be excruciatingly painful, and (2) wouldn't he have been unable to stand or walk until the hip was put back in its socket? OUCH.

    1. A local river spirit type thing does seem to make the most sense. It certainly seems like it should be a different God from the one who already promised him all of this land.

  2. Lol, all hail the mighty god. Maybe Jacob is meant to be Hercules, after all the bible does borrow heavily. I am enjoying these blogs, as I honesty cant be bothered to read to much of the bible anymore.... once was enough.

    1. Thanks, glad you are enjoying it :)

  3. Is Guzak interpreting the Bible in the Bizarro Universe? Jeepers! Talk about calling black white!

    The thing that always gets me about this story, besides Jacob concurring God, is the fact that God fought dirty! There they were in honest man-to-man combat, but God resorts to using His powers to try to win, and still didn't win.

    Of course, the idea that any human could compete against a real god is laughable to begin with...

    1. Bizarro universe indeed. It actually made me read the story over a few extra times just to make sure I wasn't missing anything (It's not uncommon that I miss important details on my first read) but as far as I can tell, in this instance he's just pulling stuff out of his ass.

      And yeah, it is funny that God had to play dirty, and he still didn't come out ahead. I think the only reasonable interpretation is some version of what Ahab said above, that the god in this story was originally some kind of lesser spirit.

  4. I just came across this passage in the bible and it is one of the weirdest. The bible is not clear whether it was god or an angel, but it seems more likely that it was god since Jacob says he say god's face.

    But what I wonder is how evangelicals rationalize this passage since they always have some way of interpreting the bible their way that makes "sense" in context.

    1. Yeah, really weird passage for sure. It's honestly hard to make sense of it, but I think the most reasonable thing is that the original version of this whole story included a pantheon of God, and Jacob was wrestling with some lesser spirit here. It explains how God lost, and it explains why Jacob was so intent on getting a second blessing from God. It's kind of silly if there is one God, makes sense if he's going around trying to get multiple blessings from multiple gods.

      As far as how evangelicals rationalize it away, I think it was some mixture of God losing on purpose, and somehow reading into the passage that God actually won. Really strange.


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