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Genesis 32:24-29

Context
32:24 So Jacob was left alone. Then a man 1  wrestled 2  with him until daybreak. 3  32:25 When the man 4  saw that he could not defeat Jacob, 5  he struck 6  the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

32:26 Then the man 7  said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” 8  “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, 9  “unless you bless me.” 10  32:27 The man asked him, 11  “What is your name?” 12  He answered, “Jacob.” 32:28 “No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, 13  “but Israel, 14  because you have fought 15  with God and with men and have prevailed.”

32:29 Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” 16  “Why 17  do you ask my name?” the man replied. 18  Then he blessed 19  Jacob 20  there.

1 sn Reflecting Jacob’s perspective at the beginning of the encounter, the narrator calls the opponent simply “a man.” Not until later in the struggle does Jacob realize his true identity.

2 sn The verb translated “wrestled” (וַיֵּאָבֵק, vayyeaveq) sounds in Hebrew like the names “Jacob” (יַעֲקֹב, yaaqov) and “Jabbok” (יַבֹּק, yabboq). In this way the narrator links the setting, the main action, and the main participant together in the mind of the reader or hearer.

3 tn Heb “until the rising of the dawn.”

4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the man) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Or “injured”; traditionally “touched.” The Hebrew verb translated “struck” has the primary meanings “to touch; to reach; to strike.” It can, however, carry the connotation “to harm; to molest; to injure.” God’s “touch” cripples Jacob – it would be comparable to a devastating blow.

7 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the man) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “dawn has arisen.”

9 tn Heb “and he said, ‘I will not let you go.’” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Jacob) has been specified for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

10 sn Jacob wrestled with a man thinking him to be a mere man, and on that basis was equal to the task. But when it had gone on long enough, the night visitor touched Jacob and crippled him. Jacob’s request for a blessing can only mean that he now knew that his opponent was supernatural. Contrary to many allegorical interpretations of the passage that make fighting equivalent to prayer, this passage shows that Jacob stopped fighting, and then asked for a blessing.

11 tn Heb “and he said to him.” The referent of the pronoun “he” (the man who wrestled with Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 sn What is your name? The question is rhetorical, since the Lord obviously knew Jacob’s identity. But since the Lord is going to change Jacob’s name, this question is designed to bring focus Jacob’s attention on all that his name had come to signify.

13 tn Heb “and he said.” The referent of the pronoun “he” (the man who wrestled with Jacob) has been specified for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

14 sn The name Israel is a common construction, using a verb with a theophoric element (אֵל, ’el) that usually indicates the subject of the verb. Here it means “God fights.” This name will replace the name Jacob; it will be both a promise and a call for faith. In essence, the Lord was saying that Jacob would have victory and receive the promises because God would fight for him.

15 sn You have fought. The explanation of the name Israel includes a sound play. In Hebrew the verb translated “you have fought” (שָׂרִיתָ, sarita) sounds like the name “Israel” (יִשְׂרָאֵל, yisrael ), meaning “God fights” (although some interpret the meaning as “he fights [with] God”). The name would evoke the memory of the fight and what it meant. A. Dillmann says that ever after this the name would tell the Israelites that, when Jacob contended successfully with God, he won the battle with man (Genesis, 2:279). To be successful with God meant that he had to be crippled in his own self-sufficiency (A. P. Ross, “Jacob at the Jabboq, Israel at Peniel,” BSac 142 [1985]: 51-62).

16 sn Tell me your name. In primitive thought to know the name of a deity or supernatural being would enable one to use it for magical manipulation or power (A. S. Herbert, Genesis 12-50 [TBC], 108). For a thorough structural analysis of the passage discussing the plays on the names and the request of Jacob, see R. Barthes, “The Struggle with the Angel: Textual Analysis of Genesis 32:23-33,” Structural Analysis and Biblical Exegesis (PTMS), 21-33.

17 tn The question uses the enclitic pronoun “this” to emphasize the import of the question.

18 tn Heb “and he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’” The referent of the pronoun “he” (the man who wrestled with Jacob) has been specified for clarity, and the order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

19 tn The verb here means that the Lord endowed Jacob with success; he would be successful in everything he did, including meeting Esau.

20 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.



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