painting of family group

Reflecting on Genesis 32 22-32

We’re thinking about Genesis 32:22-32, the mysterious story of Jacob’s wrestling with “the angel” [a word never used in the text], or “a man” [which man could this be, considering that Jacob is “alone,” but clearly not so alone that he cannot wrestle with this “man”?], or God [that’s how Jacob sees it, or so he says, at the end]. This question about the identity of the antagonist is one of the big questions to think about, surely.

But along with that question would be the one of how the identity of the antagonist affects the way we understand the story. Does it? How does it? That is, who do we usually think Jacob is wrestling with? And if we change our idea, and imagine Jacob to be wrestling with someone different, how does it change the way we think about the story?

Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple more questions we might want to think about, or discuss:

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Why is this wrestling match happening?

How does our answer to that question depend on who we think is doing the wrestling?

[More personal] Do we ourselves identify with this story of “wrestling”? Why is that, do we think? [Want to say more about that?]

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How do we understand the meaning of the wrestling match? That is, what does it tell us about … Jacob? About God and Jacob’s relationship with God? About the way things are in the world? In other words: why is this story important, do we think?

[One way we might try to get at this would be think of several adjectives that describe Jacob – e.g., Anxious? Resistant? Determined? … And several adjectives that describe Jacob’s opponent – e.g., Persistent? Engaged? Determined? … And see what meaning we gather from the interaction of these characteristics …]

[More personal] How does this story seem to be important for us, personally? Why is that? [we might already have asked that question; but maybe we need to keep asking this question]

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[a lot more personal] Would we say we “like” this story? Why do we say that?

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This is one of the first stories I knew exactly where to find in the Bible. Just sayin.

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impressionistic view of family members around a table lit by an oil lamp

Image: “A Family Around a Table,” Julius Paulsen (1919), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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