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In some kind of divine encounter Jacob receives a hip injury:

NIV Genesis 32: 22During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. 24This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27“What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29“Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32(Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

How is this significant?

6 Answers 6

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It may have been God's way of preventing Jacob from fathering more than twelve sons.

This study describes in modern medical terms a traumatic hip injury suffered by the Biblical patriarch Jacob approximately 3,500 years ago ... He appears to have sustained neurological injury to his sciatic nerve as well as musculoskeletal damage to his hip.

The structural contributor to sciatica-related sexual dysfunction usually revolves around nerve compression of the cauda equina nerve roots in the central canal, due to spinal stenosis. This process can cause sciatica, but can also affect the viability of the lower sacral nerves, before they exit through their designated neuroforamen. These nerves are responsible for providing many of the anatomical changes associated with sexual response.

Gid hanasheh (Hebrew: גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה‎‎), often translated as "displaced tendon," is the term for sciatic nerve in Judaism. It may not be eaten by Jews according to Halacha (Jewish Law). The laws of prohibition regarding the gid hanasheh are found in Tractate Chullin (Hullin), chapter 7.

The Zohar teaches us that in every struggle we are powerful, and can overcome our evil urges if we so desire. There is only one place where the lust is so strong that even great men are powerless—the gid hanasheh.

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  • While I have accepted this answer it is odd that God chose to go about it in a way with such a significant side effect.
    – Ruminator
    May 1, 2019 at 11:54
  • 1
    I doubt this is the full answer, but this is a really good point. +1
    – Robert
    Feb 1, 2021 at 21:52
  • Exactly. It answers the question and then raises another question!
    – Ruminator
    Feb 4, 2021 at 8:45
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~ In part it could be that the Man with whom Jacob was wrestling with was revealing himself to be no ordinary man. It could also be that the Man simply tried to bring the match to a close. However, Jacob was so tenacious that he refused to stop wrestling.

Subsequent to this Jacob may have limped for a few days and then recovered.

*Note I also want to add that this takes place in ch. 32 and 3 chapters later, Jacob goes on to have a son. Benjamin is born.

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  • Good point about him having a son after this, (unless it is within nine months, which I didn't check).
    – Ruminator
    Nov 11, 2021 at 1:00
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Further possibilities - 1) related to his heal-grabbing name. 2) being nomadic and self-confident, Jacob would now have to depend on God to get around.

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  • Hi BigQ and welcome to the site. Normally your answer would be disqualified on the grounds of being too brief and unsupported but they are interesting to consider and you being a newbie I gave you thumbs up. Please, though, take the tour of the site here if you hope to not experience a lot of painful rejection! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
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    May 21, 2020 at 17:04
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In Genesis 32 what is the significance of Jacob's injury?

Perhaps to teach him humility; a constant reminder not to be overly exalted because of his God-given prosperity or for having grappled with an angel.

That was something to keep him lowly, to show that this victory was not in his own strength and that the angel had superior power.

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Jacob's injury, specifically regarding the sciatica nerve, have annual observed fast days references.

The words the sciatica nerve in Hebrew represents the observed fast days of the year as follows:

לֹֽא־יֹאכְל֨וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אֶת־גִּ֣יד הַנָּשֶׁ֗ה All the fast days (when we don't eat) are in the words אֶת־גִּ֣יד הַנָּשֶׁ֗ה:

גִּ֣: tzum gedaliah י:and Asarah bTeves Yom Kippur תאֶ: Taanis Esther and Tisha (b)Av יד: Taanis Bchoros גִּ֣יד: Shiva Asar Btamuz הַנָּשֶׁ֗ה-השֶׁ֗נָּהַ: throughout each year

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This is how I see the significance of the injury to the hip of Jacob.

Jacob probably expected to be killed and die when he meets up with Esau. Therefor he sent all away and went alone across the Jabbok River. There He wrestled with God – probably to save him from Esau and death. Then God dislocated his hip. Jacob wanted God’s blessing before his expected death and then admitted he is Jacob, the deceiver. Then God changed his name to Israel because he overcame.

A man with a dislocated him cannot walk at all. He crawls and has to hang on a stick to lift himself up and move forward. It is excruciatingly painful. Jacob was now totally broken and defenseless. He was also alone. He was most likely accepting he will definitely be killed now. In this condition he met Esau.

When Esau saw this totally crushed and humiliated brother crawling towards him and crying in pain, he had pity on him, spared his life and embraced him. So, God actually saved Jacob's life and blessed him by breaking him.

We also often did the same to God as what Jacob did to Esau, by cheating God out of His possession, bride and temple. Like the evil husbandmen who killed the servants and the son of the vineyard owner when they came to ask the fruits of the vineyard. Like what Joseph’s brothers did to him. Like what the Jews did to Jesus. What Paul did by persecuting Jesus. What we all do to Jesus with every sin.

God is also on His way to take vengeance on all sinners.

Zech 12:10 - 13:9 says the Holy Spirit makes us now look up to Him whom we have pierced and to mourn bitterly for Him - as what happened with Jacob, the brothers of Joseph, the Jews in Acts 2-4 and Paul on the Damascus road. We suddenly see what we have done to the Son of God with every sin. It utterly strikes and breaks our hearts and causes deep mourning and repentance. Then God forgives, washes, cleanses and delivers us from all sin. From then on we are totally transformed, humbled and broken people who can boast in nothing but in the cross of Jesus where we murdered our own Creator!

In so breaking our hearts and destroying our old lives, God blesses and saves us. This is the bright light we all must see.

However, if we do not mournfully confess and thoroughly repent and humble ourselves before the cross of Jesus where we nailed and killed Him thousands of times, or if we would meet Him as a Jacob in our full self, we will meet the punishment of God.

To me, this is the spiritual significance of the injury to the hip of Jacob.

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