Genesis 32:22-321The People You Thought You Knew – Jacob
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
Genesis (Hebrew: בראשית, Greek: Γένεσις, meaning “birth”, “creation”, “cause”, “beginning”, “source” or “origin”) is the first book of the Torah, the Tanakh, and the Old Testament. In Hebrew, it is called בראשית (B’reshit or Bərêšîth), after the first word of the text in Hebrew (meaning “in the beginning”). This is in line with the pattern of naming the other four books of the Pentateuch. As Jewish tradition considers it to have been written by Moses, it is sometimes also called The First Book of Moses.
Genesis contains the historical presupposition and basis of the national religious ideas and institutions of Israel, and serves as an introduction to its history, laws, and customs. It is the composition of a writer (or set of writers, who has recounted the traditions of the Israelites, combining them into a uniform work, while preserving the textual and formal peculiarities incident to their difference in origin and mode of transmission.
Jacob separated himself from his flocks and family and remained on the far side of the Jabbok river. Should Jacob’s behavior be construed as an act of cowardice, or did he just need time to contemplate his future? This may have been part of a scheme to distance himself from Esau, using his dependents and estate as buffers. Perhaps he sought again to call on God for help (see 32:9-12). It may have been both. In any case, the aloneness of Jacob here at Penuel matches his aloneness at Bethel at the beginning of his journey. Both leaving and returning, Jacob met his God alone.
Instead of being alone, Jacob found himself wrestling with “a man.” The assailant is called a man, but as the story develops it becomes clear that it is Elohim (A name for God in the Hebrew Scriptures. [Hebrew ’ĕlōhîm , pl. of ’ĕlōah , God.]) Himself. Jacob, whose name means “heel-grabber,” hence “trickster,” undergoes a name change to Israel, which means “wrestles with God.” By giving an account of his dual name Jacob/Israel, the Elohist identifies Jacob as the patriarch of the nation of Israel. Again, the story is both personal and national.
Penuel (with an alternate spelling Peniel) literally means “face of God,” because there Jacob saw God directly. A recurring theme in the Elohist is that one cannot look at God and live (see also Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3). This reinforces the utter powerfulness of Elohim. Yet Jacob saw the face of God and lived–a sign that indeed he was blessed.
The final note in verse 32 is introduced by “Therefore to this day,” indicating that this version of the story was written down later than the event itself, namely, when Israelites were around. Apparently this story, however old the core of it may have been, was appropriated at a later time and was used to explain the Jewish avoidance of eating the thigh muscle, identified in Jewish tradition with the sciatic nerve.
The meaning of the story is elusive. Yet at the very least it serves to characterize Jacob as persistent, even relentless, in his pursuit for blessing. Taken together with the other Jacob stories, this story says Jacob would stop at nothing to secure a personal advantage. Jacob never waited for his destiny. He made it happen. Single-mindedly and often deviously he pursued the divine blessing. Divine destiny and human response are united in one action sequence in the Jacob cycle.
Items for Discussion
- How is Jacob’s wrestling match like spiritual warfare today?
- Do you think that Jacob actually won against God? (see verse 28)
- If there is spiritual warfare and real warfare, how is each won? In other words, what would the effective strategies look like?
- What did Jacob recognize that resulted in his victory?
- What is the lesson for us in that same struggle?
2 Corinthians 5:16-18
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: …
While there is little doubt among scholars that Paul is the author, there is discussion over whether the letter was originally one letter or a combination of two or more of Paul’s letters. Although the New Testament only contains two letters to the Corinthians, the evidence from the letters themselves is that he may have written at least four:
- 1 Cor 5:9 (“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people”, NIV) refers to an early letter, sometimes called the “warning letter”.
- 1 Corinthians
- Paul refers to an earlier “letter of tears” in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4 and 7:8. 1 Corinthians does not match that description; so this “letter of tears” might be between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.
- 2 Corinthians
Most of this discussion is centered around the abrupt change of tone from being previously harmonious to bitterly reproachful in 2 Corinthians 10-13 leading many to speculate that chapters 10-13 form part of the “letter of tears” which were in some way tagged on to Paul’s main letter. For the purpose of this study, we will assume only two letters and not address this controversy.
Know no man after the flesh …
The new manner of life for Christians follows the principle laid down here. “They no longer measure men by human standards of race, natural gifts, social standing, or possessions.” No sooner had Paul written this than he remembered how, before his conversion, he had measured the Christ himself by those very standards. This he at once confessed and repudiated.
Even though we have known Christ after the flesh …
Regarding the meaning that Paul, as a disciple of Gamaliel, might have had some association with Jesus during his ministry; although this was by no means impossible, it is clear that Paul’s meaning here is that:
- Prior to his conversion, his knowledge of Christ had been after the flesh, formed in accordance with external and mistaken standards; but his conversion had meant the transformation of his knowledge of Christ.
Yet now we know him so no more …
Paul no longer judged Christ after the false and artificial standards of the Pharisaical class to which he had once belonged.
In Christ …
Paul used this expression, or its equivalent, 169 times! Paul had just written that all people are dead spiritually, a deadness that shall never abate unless they are risen again IN CHRIST. In Christ, a new spiritual life is given to the convert; in Christ all of his previous sins are cancelled; in Christ he is endowed with the Holy Spirit; in Christ a new and glorious life begins; in Christ old values are rejected, old standards repudiated, and old lusts are crucified; in Christ are “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3); out of Christ, there is nothing but death, remorse, hopelessness and condemnation; in Christ there is the life eternal!
All things are of God …
The marvelous blessings “in Christ” are of God, as Paul would explain a moment later, because God was in Christ, Christ being called GOD no less than ten times in the Greek New Testament. It was the Second Person of the Godhead, however, who entered earth life as a man, bore the sins of the whole world and offered himself upon Calvary as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Who reconciled us …
People are the ones who need to be reconciled; and this thought is again implied here.
And gave unto us …
This is a reference to the apostles of Christ, to whom was committed the ministry of reconciliation, meaning the glad news of the redemption available to every man “in Christ.” In a far lesser sense, every Christian is also a custodian of the good news; but in the original and plenary sense, this applies only to the apostles of Christ.
Items for Discussion
- How has accepting Christ made you different?
- Why do you think that your faith in someone whom you have never physically met can influence your life the way it does?
- What is the best part about the “Good News” that you like to share?
- How do you interpret the use of the word, reconciliation?
- What good news does our church share without the use of words?
- 1The People You Thought You Knew – Jacob