When one question merely leads to another. (7 FEB ’17) The purpose of this article is to encourage believers (& readers in general) who experience unexplainable events that often profoundly affect us, but leave us puzzled. There are some common themes that the human mind tries to create. The human mind likes to make sense of things. In other words, our minds think that things are supposed to make sense. The human mind likes to think that good things happen to good people. The human mind likes Hollywood endings where the story ends on a positive note. But reality is unfortunately not so kind to us. Random unexplainable events happen that seem to defy the neat explanations that tidy up the narratives of life. Unless we wittingly over-ride our natural thinking, such irrational events can be disturbing…we have to learn to go with the flow…life is like a river, there are uncontrollable rapids, and lazy meandering wide channels, & at times waterfalls. We wonder what is around the bend.
THE EXAMPLE. The example that I have chosen is Jacob wrestling in the dark with a stranger.(A) The tussle is a confused event for the two participants, and is a confusing Biblical episode for Bible students that leaves readers as much in the dark as Jacob and his unknown assailant were that dark night on what was then called the Jabbok River, and is now tentatively identified as Nahr-ez-Zerka (the Blue River) in Trans-Jordan. Jacob is returning to his homeland and is scheduled the next day to meet his brother Esau and his 400 warriors who have reason to kill him. Jacob should be sleeping, but obviously the tension is keeping him awake so he goes off in the night by himself, and bumps into an assailant. Of course, he and the readers of the account have no clue who this assailant is. He could be an assassin sent from his brother or a robber. A hand simply comes out in the dark, and Jacob begins a violent struggle. The struggle goes on in the dark silently, neither side seeing who the other is. Without an exchange of words or visual contact, somehow Jacob senses what he is up against. Although we are given no explanation for how he had the ability & grit to hold his own.
As can be expected, the human mind likes to construct themes, and so various people have taken this Genesis 32 story which is a barely coherent, barely intelligible account and force it to fit some preconceived theme. For instance, some have said the physical struggle between these two men that left Jacob limping with a dislocated hip was merely an intense prayer session that Jacob had. But tidy explanations don’t fit the wording of the account. We are left puzzled over who the stranger was and what his purpose was. Was this meeting accidental or planned? What was it really all about? How did Jacob manage to struggle an entire night from dusk til dawn…those of us who have wrestled in matches get weary after only a few minutes, and keep in mind Jacob was 97 with 11 sons & an unknown number of daughters (one being Dinah). The two give each other blows and then compliments. Why would the stranger attack poor Jacob whose name in the end he claimed not to know? What motivated both of them? As with many Biblical accounts, lots of pertinent important details are missing, and the ones we are given are confusing.
WHAT WE KNOW. We know that in the Genesis account it calls the stranger in Hebrew “ish” which means man. But Jacob at the end says he has wrestled with “Elohim”(B) and the stranger acknowledges that as true. Finally, this is all brought into proper perspective (somewhat) by HOS 12:4 which states Jacob wrestled an angel and wept & begged for a blessing. The angel of theophany is also referred to at times as “Elohim” (God) and “ish” (man)…so this pulls the disparate clues into a coherency. The angel of theophany shows up quite a few times in Genesis (C) and other scriptures…and is often considered to be Christ. We know that the blessing that Jacob received was a new name “Israel”. It is this perplexing story where the name and people of Israel began. The name Jacob means “deceiver” and he had indeed done that to his brother and father. Now he will be known as Israel, meaning “one who wrestles God”. And how many people when they say the word Israel, knows it refers to struggling against God and then asking for a blessing!
FINAL THOUGHTS. Christ warned about hanging jewels on the necks of swine, or casting your pearls before them. In other words, knowledge is deep and truth is precious…and those not able to receive it should not have it to trample on & devalue. Pearls of truth should be reserved for those who are worthy. It seems a great deal has been left out of scriptures…so that further along…if we are worthy…we will receive more truth and more understanding. Yahshua referred to the “mysteries of the King”. Indeed, there are plenty of mysteries for us to ponder about the King and the Kingdom. We find God not playing by our rules, and upsetting our plans that we thought He would back. Can we wrestle with God? Apparently at times we must…and then ask for a blessing! But if we do, we need to be prepared for God to change us in strange ways! Meanwhile, we need to roll with the punches of life…realizing that it will not make sense at times, and end up to be confusing struggles when we need to be doing other productive things.
(A) GEN 32 (B) GEN 32:30 (C) GEN 16:7+, 21:17, 22:11, 31:11