"Psalm 23," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist.
Image © by John August Swanson. Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.
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Jacob Wrestles God
Genesis 32:[9-13] 22-30 Commentary
by Margaret Odell
Although the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the mysterious man at the Jabbok until daybreak most likely has roots in an old legend about a river demon, the story in its current form strongly suggests, though never entirely confirms, that Jacob’s opponent is God.
Jacob’s own dawning realization is reflected his act of naming the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). The story thus bears an interesting resemblance to the story of Abraham’s encounter with the three men in Genesis 18. Just as Abraham provides rest and refreshment for three passersby only to discover that his guest is the LORD, Jacob does not know until it is all over that the man who has attacked him is God. There the similarity ends, however, since Jacob’s encounter is anything but peaceful. The story implies that the man has attacked Jacob, and Jacob seems ready to fight to the finish. When the stranger realizes he cannot prevail against Jacob, he touches him in the hip socket, thereby wounding him in a bid to get Jacob to let him go. But Jacob hangs on, demanding a blessing. Whereas Abraham’s blessing is a gift rewarding his own hospitality, Jacob’s blessing is wrung from his opponent ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL Podcast 373: Jacob Wrestles God
September 22, 2019
Podcast on Genesis 32:[9-13] 22-30, the Narrative Lectionary readings for Sept. 22, 2019, (Jacob Wrestles God) featuring Profs. Rolf Jacobson, Craig Koester, and Kathryn Schifferdecker. Recorded at Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minn., for Working Preacher.