Jacob Wrestled with God

In Genesis 32:22-32 we read of the story of Jacob wrestling with an unknown man until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that it was wrenched out as he wrestled. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” Jacob, perhaps realising with whom he had wrestled, replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and men and have overcome.”

To those who read this, I will offer up my personal observations. The struggle between Jacob and the stranger is often used as an allegory of man’s struggle with the Divine. It is an interesting passage on many levels for the mystic, since the Hebrew text implies the man may have been an angel. Indeed, certain texts equate the stranger as God himself.

The latter is an interesting thought: did God incarnate before the arrival of Christ? Then again, the pre-incarnate Logos probably appeared to Moses as “the Angel of the Lord” from within the burning bush. Yet this was not a corporeal manifestation, and the entity within the burning bush did not touch or grasp Moses, but instead transformed his staff into a magical wand and commanded him to force Pharaoh to let his chosen people go free.

In the Jacob text the fight takes place across a stream, which may be equated with the Middle Way - the Via Media - or perhaps even with the River of Life which flowed through Eden and will reappear in the New Jerusalem. Could it be that the forces of nature and super-nature, or judgement and mercy, are competing across the stream of Jacob’s consciousness?  Neither wins, but it is the stranger who gives his blessing to Jacob after ‘tricking’ Jacob by dislocating his hip. 

The important point is the identity of the person with whom the mysterious stranger wrestles. It is Jacob, the second of Isaac's sons. Jacob had earlier tricked his elder brother Esau out of an inheritance, and there is a sense of justice or karma being meted out at the end of his wrestling match with the Divine Being he encountered. Jacob cannot have it all; he is not as strong as God and cannot control or win at everything he puts his hand to. His arrogance and hubris was dealt a blow when he was forced to yield by a clearly superior being. 

Jacob is also an allegory of Abel, Adam’s second son, and whose righteousness was acceptable to God. In struggling against the will of God, Jacob also appears to follow in the footsteps of Cain, Adam’s first son, partcularly when he later moves to the land in the south (Egypt, which is a metaphor of man’s imprisonment in base elemental nature). 

Another thought that occurs to me in the midst of this contemplation, is that the wrestling match may be between Jacob’s subconscious and conscious selves. It is, if you like, God awakening the spirit within Jacob. This can only be brought about through humility - and the suffering that leads to acquiring it.  When all is said and done, Jacob is left after the conflict with a greater sense of peace and harmony, notwithstanding his injury.  

For some, the part that troubles them most is the angel (or God) resorting to injury to make Jacob relent. The answer, I think, lies in Jacob having “seen God face to face.”  The two wrestle in the dark, and it is only when day is about to break that the stranger asks Jacob to relent.  No living man can see the face of God, and so the broken hip is a reminder to Jacob that he is a mortal, and must learn his place. Jacob had to beAuthor selling Books on Rosicrucianism and Books on Secret Traditions brought down a notch or two, especially after the deceit by which he had stolen his elder brother’s inheritance. His refusal to yield to God at the stream was a symptom of his hubris.

If you think about it, when Moses saw the angel of the Lord (or God?) within the burning bush, he was handed a burden he did not desire. Moses had to be shocked into action. There are parallels to be drawn. Also, do not forget that in the story of Jacob, he was hit in the hip and was so late back that he saw the sun rise upon him. That is a sign of the blessing and light of God dawning upon his consciousness. A face he cannot be allowed to "see" but which he can perceive in nature. 

On another level still, perhaps Jacob's dislocated hip is a reminder that the spiritual path or Quest is never an easy one. 

This article is the copyright (c) of M.R. Osborne, 2022