In the Book of Genesis (32:24ff), I get the impression that Jacob was at his wits end. He was alone in the wilderness, having sent all that he had in the world away from him. He felt his brother Esau might kill not only he (Jacob) but all of his people — including his wives and children. Then, when Jacob least expected it "a man" began wrestling with him in the middle of the desert:

Genesis 32:24-29: "Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there."

Is it reasonable to conclude that Jacob expected a blessing from the angel to protect he and all his household from Esau, or were there other that may have awaited them in the wilderness? Also, are we told whether there is special significance to the angel dislocating Jacob's thigh during this physical encounter?

  • The question contained in your very last sentence is answered in the chapter's very last verse, 32:32.
    – Lucian
    Aug 18 at 12:44
  • @Lucian Thanks for that. I'm wondering if there is any reference to dislocating the joint (socket) of the thigh (in the sinew of the hip) from elsewhere in the O/T. In other words, is this something the Jews understood to be of significance, sort of like abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, or from blood, or from things strangled? Naturally, this could be the first time any such thing is mentioned (and set a precedent). I'm just not certain and have been unable to find any other instance.
    – Xeno
    Aug 18 at 19:17
  • It is simply a folk belief meant to explain or justify a Jewish culinary custom.
    – Lucian
    Aug 18 at 19:22
  • @Lucian Again, thanks. Ah, I just noticed that someone else asked a very similar question.
    – Xeno
    Aug 18 at 19:23

This question is answered, in part, by the previous verses in Gen 32 -

21 So Jacob’s gifts went on before him, while he spent the night in the camp. 22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven sons, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, along with all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left all alone, and there a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

All we are told is that Jacob began wrestling at some time during the night which lasted until dawn. Thus, the wrestling might have lasted anything from half an hour to perhaps several hours. We are not told how long it lasted because we do not know what part of the night it started.

We can deduce just a little more. Jacob, during the night, had his entire household cross the Jabbok which would have taken several hours with all their livestock and goods. Assuming that Jacob began this crossing process, say, two hours after dark and the crossing took another 6 hours, than the wrestling could have lasted no more than about three or four hours. It might have been less.

However, it did NOT last all night (12 hours) but something much less.


Before the wrestling, Genesis 32:

Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau

This prayer was very specific and focused. There might be other dangers, like robbers, along the way, but Jacob wasn't worried about them. In fact, after Jacob reconciled with Esau in the next chapter, Genesis 33:

15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”

“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”

Jacob was confident that he could deal with highway robbers without Esau's extra men.

Did Jacob continue wrestling all night to receive a blessing to save he and his family from Esau, or something else (Gen. 32:24-29)?

The wrestling was God's answer to Jacob's prayer to save him from the hand of Esau.

Are we told whether there is special significance to the angel dislocating Jacob's thigh during this physical encounter?

Benson explains:

This was to humble him, and make him sensible of his own weakness, that he might ascribe his victory, not to his own power, but to the grace of God, and might be encouraged to depend on that grace for the deliverance he was so much concerned to obtain. It is probable Jacob felt little or no pain from this hurt, for he did not so much as halt till the struggle was over, Genesis 32:31. If so, it evidenced itself to be a divine touch indeed, wounding and healing at the same time.

  • This is a great answer. I don't know how I could miss the specificity of the prayer in 32:11. As for the second question, another response here offers several possibilities on the subject. Thanks! +1.
    – Xeno
    Aug 18 at 19:44

This 'fight' could be seen symbolically as a test of Jacob's desire for the heritage/birth-right of his father (the promise given to Abraham and Isaac). This is why his name is changed at the end (after refusing to finish the fight without a blessing). It is changed from Jacob (which means a deceptive person - see the story of his birth) to IsraEl (the chosen of God - El).


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