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Wrestling with God?! (Genesis 32)

Genesis 32 - Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants 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,[1]because you have struggled with God and with humans 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,[2] 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.

  1. Israel probably means he struggles with God.

  2. Peniel means face of God.

The Bible is full of strange passages, and this one probably in many people's top 10 list. Not only is the idea God wrestles with man very odd, the details and the conversation are also bizarre.

Jacob had been through a lot. He had taken his brother Esau's blessings and had been running away from his family ever since. His fear of Esau haunted him. He's homeless. Yet he had learned lots of lessons since then (Genesis 29-32), and now he had decided to obey God by returning to see Esau and submitting to God with worship and thanksgiving. Yet he was still confused and scared!

To make things more bizarre, God now came to wrestle with Jacob--not a metaphorical one, but a physical one that lasted for hours with full body contact, permanent injury, sweat and scratch marks.


1. How do you judge who the winner is in a wrestling competition? Now, read the details again and try to decide who the winner was. Actually, both sides had good reasons to claim victory:

God had won because....





Jacob had won because....





2. God did 3 important things during this wrestling. Why was each one significant to Jacob?

1. Change his name (a new identity defined by God)

2. Bless him (a new relationship with God)

3. Cripple him (a permanent mark of God's power and Jacob's limitations)

Has God done these to you? How is he changing you?

3. God didn't tell Jacob directly that He was God. He didn't need to.

So how do you think Jacob knew? How do you recognize God in your life?

4. The passage gives details of the hip injury. Why do you think so? Note that it is quite difficult to break an adult man's hip. A person who can do this definitely has the power to break his opponent's neck.


Jacob was a man full of desires, dreams, plans. The name Jacob means 'to grip', as he's always trying to grip something. We may not agree with lots of things he did, but one thing he was always after: God's blessings. God rewarded this desire and met him face to face in a way he would never expect.

God did not offer Jacob a self-help book, or a counselling session to explore his feelings and past events (those could be helpful too). He wrestled with him physically!

5. How did the whole experience help Jacob deal with his fears, confusion and anxiety in the rest of his life?

6. How do you feel about picturing your relationship with God as a wrestling session?

#jacob #genesis #identity #confusion #anxiety

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