Genesis 32:14–33

32  14 Jacob spent that night there. From what he had acquired, he took from what he had at hand and aside a tribute for Esau, his brother Esau: 15 two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 16 thirty nursing camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty she-asses and ten he-asses. 17 He handed the herds over to servants. He said to them, “Cross over before me and put some distance between each of the herds.” 18 He ordered the first group, “When Esau, my brother, meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose herds are these in front of you?’ 19 say, ‘They are your servant Jacob’s, a tribute sent to my master Esau. And Jacob is coming right behind us.’” 20 Jacob also ordered the second group, the third group, and all who walked behind the herds, “Say exactly the same thing to Esau when you find him. 21 Say, ‘Your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, I will wipe the anger from his face with the gift that goes ahead of my face. Then, when I meet him, perhaps he will lift up my face by being gracious to me. 22 So Jacob sent the tribute ahead of him, but he spent that night in the camp.
     23 Jacob arose during the night, took his two wives, his two women slaves, and his eleven sons and forded the Jabbok River. 24 He took them and brought them across the river; he took all he had and brought it across the river. 25 And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. 26 When the man saw that he could not prevail, he touched Jacob’s hip socket. The socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated as he wrestled with him. 27 The man said, “Let me go because the dawn has arisen.”
     But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
     28 He said to Jacob, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 29 Then he said, “Not Jacob/Heel-Sneak shall your name be called, but Israel/God-Fighter,because you have fought with God and with men and prevailed.”
     30 Then Jacob asked and said, “Tell me your name.”
     But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and there he blessed Jacob. 31 Jacob called the name of the place Peniel/Face-of-God, “because I have seen God face-to-face, and my life-breath was saved.” 32 The sun rose upon Jacob as he passed Penuel, limping on his thigh. 33 Therefore, the children of Israel, to this day, do not eat the sinew of the thigh attached to the hip, for the man touched Jacob’s hip socket at the sinew of the thigh.

Alone amid his many animals and other property, his wives and offspring, Jacob acts out his fear of Esau’s potential retribution for having lost the blessing of the first-born. In the night, a plan comes to Jacob to send wave after wave of tribute to the nearing Esau and company—220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels with calves, 50 cows, and 30 asses.

Such a display raises the possibility that if Jacob is voluntarily sending this much as tribute, he may have the resources to protect extensive holdings. This may change the calculus of Esau in a moderating direction.

With a plan in place and begun to be implemented, Jacob rests.

Yet, something unsettles Jacob; he gets up and takes his two wives, two slavegirls, and eleven sons (plus Dinah?) to ford the Jabbok that separates him from the advancing Esau. Jacob also sent his remaining flocks across the river.

With everyone and everything on the south side of the Jabbok, Jacob was alone on the north side. There, for the rest of the night, Jacob wrestled with Esau, a stone on a well, and Laban/Rebekah/Isaac all wrapped up in the form of a man. A dream? A messenger from G*D? A presence of G*D? Jacob’s future?

All such wrestling is never finished. All such wrestling leaves its mark.

In this case, it is reported that there is a physical mark—an injured hip on which to journey. There is also a changed relationship and identity with his family of origin, present family, G*D, and self—Israel. This shift from deviousness to openness is also never completed. This shows in the ambiguity with which the names Jacob and Israel will be used (unlike the clear difference between Abram and Abraham).In keeping with Bethel and Gal-Ed, Jacob names this place by the Jabbok, Peniel—in a face-to-face setting with his past, present, and future self, Jacob finds his “life-breath saved.” In wrestling a man who is no man, night gives way to sunrise. It is time to face this day.

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