Readers of the narrative of Jacob at Peniel ( Genesis 32, v’yishlach ) are frequently drawn to inquire about what is non in the narrative – the missing information. Who was Jacob wrestling? Why were they wrestling? Why did Jacob take to remain entirely? The narration is cryptic and close ; Jacob himself admirations at the individuality of his aggressor every bit good as what will go on to him the following forenoon when he encounters Esau. The puzzling nature of the episode, short and brief but dramatic, lends itself to a wealth of reading and survey. Contemporary scriptural authors frequently use the narrative in metaphorical ways. The battle between Jacob and ( possibly ) God demonstrates agnostic battles or symbolizes the ageless battle of the Israelites against societies in many different lands. A more historical analysis of the narrative, taking into history bing fables and spiritual patterns of the clip period and reviser interpolations, can supply context information, enabling readers to so construe the narrative for themselves. Both attacks demonstrate how such an ancient narrative has remained dateless and relevant for coevalss of readers.
The narrative seems to function as a span between ancient patriarchal spiritual patterns and post-exilic monotheistic beliefs. Many scriptural narratives seem to hold grown out of narratives familiar in other faiths – the inundation narrative in Gilgamesh, for illustration. The narrative of Penial could hold begun as a local fable environing myths of the river Jabbok. Later, exilic and post-exilic authors added aetiologic inserts. For case, in the chapter predating the Peniel narrative, Rachel is described taking her male parent ‘s many teraphim along with her on the household ‘s journey. In Genesis 34, Jacob is seen “ respectfully ” burying those same teraphim. Laban ‘s household had their set of hereditary Gods. Jacob so had his God, Yahweh, who was the God of his male parents. The tradition of household piousness and single household spiritual tradition may hold been a footing of the new Israel ‘s Yahweh faith.
Who is the unusual character who wrestles with Jacob? Some bookmans have suggested the narrative grew out of an old belief in animism and devils, particularly river and dark devils which attempt to forestall travellers from traversing rivers in the daytime. These devils frequently lost power in the daytime, perchance explicating the aggressor ‘s ground for pleading with Jacob, “ Let me travel, for the twenty-four hours is interrupting ” ( 32:26 ) . This theory continues with the account the Jacob ‘s petition for a approval is so easy understood as a petition for the transference of power – Jacob wants some of the devil ‘s superhuman power, presumptively to assist him cover with Esau. Later revisers so clarified that Jacob did non merely crush a river devil, but really saw God “ face to face ” ( 32:30 ) and stayed alive, an experience comparable with those of Abraham and Isaac.
The last poetry of the chapter relates that this episode is the account for why Hebrewss do non eat the thigh musculus along the sciatic nervus. Jacob leaves the episode with a hitch, from a blow to the hip socket and thigh musculus. But in other topographic points in the Tanach, particularly when pacts are formed or curses taken, “ thigh ” refers to the genitalias. Therefore, God ‘s contact of Jacob ‘s genitalias really refers to the continuance of Jacob ‘s line. It is possible that this battle is seen as portion of the outgrowth of Yahweh as the God of an full people alternatively of merely one household. Yahweh changes the descendants of Jacob from merely those instantly and “ genetically ” connected to him to all Israelites. Therefore, those Hebrewss can all see Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their ain God as good.
Interestingly plenty, in the undermentioned chapters, Jacob is still called Jacob, non Israel. Jacob is re-named Israel once more, two chapters subsequently, clearly by God himself. Why would the first naming non “ lodge? ” Possibly this shows that the interpolation of Jacob ‘s calling into the Peniel narrative was a late add-on and non portion of the original sequence of events in the Jacob rhythm. Characteristically inconsistent, the narratives of the Tanach can be frustrating, but they besides continue to arouse our attempts to understand.
This physical battle with Yawheh becomes a metaphorical battle popular in contemporarily analysis. Jacob ‘s battle with the aggressor, who may hold been a indigen of the land, foreshadows the ageless battles of the new Israelite people. If the Peniel narrative was edited by revisers during the exilic and station exilic periods, this subject of boding a people ‘ battle would do much sense.
Elie Wiesel presents the theory that the aggressor was none other than Jacob ‘s ain scruples – “ the other half of Jacob ‘s split ego. The side of him that harbored uncertainties about his mission, his hereafter, his raison d’etreaˆ¦ ” ( Wiesel 124 ) . Another reading of the narrative interprets “ Jacob struggled with God ” to intend that Jacob struggled with the construct of God. Both these readings are evidently modern ways of reading the transition. This last one is particularly meaningful to me because it seems to let, or even promote, readers to inquire about the nature or even being of God, since even Jacob has had to wrestle in the dark with religious uncertainty. The narrative ‘s puzzling and obscure qualities create chances for these modern readings, and the ability of scriptural narratives such as this to be read on so many different degrees and with different personal point of views is portion of what has enabled them to last for so long.
Jacob is split in the Peniel narrative. He is on one side of the river ; his full household is on the other side. His past life is on one side ; his hereafter is on the other. Jacob is besides in the center of a few different battles. Possibly Yahweh and the Gods of Esau are about to contend. Possibly Jacob and Esau are about to conflict each other. And God is combating with Jacob – trying to alter the nature of his followings, from believing in a traditional household faith to go a monotheistic society. Even the written narrative itself is split. Redacts and translators attempt to intermix the antediluvian traditional knowledge of myths with the Israelite faith and its nucleus beliefs. Jacob stands ready to take on his new name, new individuality, and possibly even new duties. The enigma and mystery environing the narrative make it charming and challenging, a “ beautiful nocturnal visionaˆ¦an case of the type of poesy which expresses the consciousness that Israel ‘s sires had of the intimacy of Godaˆ¦it is a poetic fragment from a water under the bridge ageaˆ¦ ” ( Rogerson 135 ) . The “ missing information ” is what keeps the narrative of Jacob at Peniel alive.
Rogers, John W. “ Wrestling with the angel: a survey in historical and literary reading. Hermenetics, the Bible, and literary unfavorable judgment ( 1992 ) : 131-144.
Wiesel, Elie. Messengers of God: Biblical Portrayals and Legends. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976.