Daily Word

Wrestle for life | Genesis 32:22-32

22 Now he got up that same night and took his two wives, his two female slaves, and his eleven children, and crossed the shallow place of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had.

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 

27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have contended with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 And Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 

31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his hip. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the tendon of the hip which is on the socket of the hip, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the tendon of the hip.

Genesis 32:22-32 (NASB)

Left alone to wrestle

Jacob has done all the preparations he can think of to encounter his (likely angry) brother Esau. He has prayed and asked for the Lord’s help and devised a plan to appease Esau, to pacify the problem. Now he’s sent all his family and stuff across the river. It’s night time, maybe middle of the night. He’s alone, tired.

A man comes and wrestles with him all night but doesn’t prevail. So the man dislocates Jacob’s hip “while he wrestled with him”. Jacob still doesn’t give up. The man demands to be let go. Maybe Jacob had him in a headlock and the man “cried uncle”. Jacob agrees on one condition – that he gives him a blessing.

Who is the man?

After the dislocation, Jacob realized the man he was wrestling with was not just a human. So he asks for the blessing. Who was the man? In Hosea 12:3-4, we read, “3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel, And in his mature strength he contended with God. 4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and implored His favor.” Based on this passage, some think the man was the pre-incarnate Christ. 


Why could the man (God or an angel) not “prevail against Jabob”? He’s certainly more powerful; he dislocated Jacob’s hip with a touch. Most understand it to mean God was teaching Jacob to know Him and trust Him, not his own abilities (like deception). Jacob needed to expend all his energy (his abilities) and see the power of God so he could come to realize he couldn’t win that way. He could only succeed by asking God for help, for a blessing.

A new name

Out of this event, Jacob got a new name, Israel. Israel means strive or contend with God; it could also mean God’s warrior. The man asked Jacob his name, not because he didn’t know but so Jacob would be reminded of the type of man he has been. Now he has a new name and new character. “From this point on, this son of Isaac will be called Jacob twice as often as he is called Israel. Apparently, there was still plenty of the old man left in Jacob.” (enduringword.com


  • “But what he discovered was that the wrestling was a means of God’s grace, a channel for God’s blessing on him. The same is true for us…So when God calls you to wrestle with him in prayer, it is an invitation to receive his blessing. Stay with him and don’t give up. Do not let him go until he blesses you! He loves to bless that kind of tenacious faith and you will come out transformed.” (desiringgod.org)

“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 seems even in appearance only. God can turn the tide at any moment, and He allows the match to go on for His own purposes.” (enduringword.com)

Wrestling. Image from Pxfuel.com

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