Why was God “wrestling” with Jacob?
Many people find this episode (in Genesis 32) confusing. Consequently, there are many different interpretations of the event. Our previous articles have suggested that the “man” who wrestled with Jacob was actually God. Another article stated that Jacob was not so much praying as “struggling” with God. Further, it appears from the grammar that God Himself initiated the struggle.
So what was God’s intention? WHY would He start such an struggle? And why would He continue wrestling all night and then need to stop before sunrise? It all sounds rather bizarre and uncharacteristic of God as we generally understand Him.
It appears to me that God’s primary intention in this struggle was for Jacob to surrender to Him. A. W. Tozer (speaking of this event) said, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” I would state it as “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until the man surrenders.” Tozer understood that God’s blessing comes after man’s surrender. Jacob had trusted in his own strength and ability for his entire life. But God could not use him until he allowed God to be in charge.
This idea of waiting for surrender also explains why an omnipotent God would continue struggling with Jacob throughout the night and not “win.” Anyone who has played checkers (or any similar game) with their grandfather probably can understand this. Grandpa will usually play at the same level as you play – not so hard as to discourage you but not so easy that it is apparent that he was giving away the game. Instead, he will CHALLENGE you to learn from the game. That is what I believe God was doing with Jacob – challenging him to surrender and TRUST God for everything – instead of trusting himself.
But Jacob was obstinate and continued the struggle through the night. Not until God touched his hip and moved it out of joint did Jacob relent. At that point, Jacob leaned on God (he had no other choice) and begged for God’s blessing. In an upcoming article, we will discuss the “blessing” that Jacob called for.
Do you have an alternative understanding? Leave your comments below. We all benefit from sincere discussions.