Genesis 32:22-32 (English) / 32:23-33 (Hebrew)



Biblical Text
Historical Context
The Jacob Stories



Genesis 32:22-32 [32.23-33] provides a fruitful starting point for creative reflection. It has inspired artists, poets, and writers, as well as theologians.


     Each one of us alone with God:
     Behind the mask of face and deed
     Each wrestles with an angel.                 Jessie Sampter (Plaut, 223)


     O wrestlin' Jacob, Jacob day's a-breakin',
          I will not let thee go!
     O wrestlin' Jacob, Jacob day's a-breakin',
          He will not let me go!
     O, I hold my brudder wid a tremblin' hand;
          I would not let him go!
     I hold my sister wid a tremblin' hand;
          I would not let her go!                    Spiritual (Plaut, 223)


     In overcoming God you are overcome. God enjoys a good fight as much as an Irish publican. From hearts that struggle there is the hope of honest love. A lover does not want gratitude or compliance; soggy affection is no more appealing than cold porridge. Nothing short of a free and equal passion will suffice. If such love must be won from long and painful wrestling, better that than an insipid pretence which does not stir the gut. It is possible to keep running for a long time. But once you join battle with the Stranger, you are at risk.
                                                               Michael Riddell (Riddell, 25)


     'Carrion Comfort'

     Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
     Not untwist - slack they may be - these last strands of man
     In me, or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
     Can something, hope, wish day not come, not choose not to be.

     But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
     Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
     With darksome devouring eyes my bruiséd bones? and fan,
     O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

     Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
     Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
     Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
     Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven handling flung me, fóot tród
     Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
     Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.
                                                                Gerard Manley Hopkins (Jasper, 141)


     Weeping we hold him fast tonight;
     We will not let Him go
     Till daybreak smile the snow.
     Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
     Shall coo the livelong day;
     Then He shall say 'Arise, My love,
     My fair one, come away.'                        Christina Rossetti (Jasper, 142)


     I remember as blessing the one glimpse I had of his face. It was more terrible than the face of dark, or of pain, or of terror. It was the face of light. No words can tell of it. Silence cannot tell of it. Sometimes I cannot believe that I saw it and lived but that I only dreamed I saw it. Sometimes I believe I saw it and that I only dream I live.
     He never told me his name. The Fear of Isaac, the Shield of Abraham, and others like them are names we use because we do not know his true name. Perhaps he did not tell it because he knew I would never stop calling on it. But I gave the place where I saw him a name. I named it Peniel. It means the face of God.
                                                                Frederick Buechner (Jasper, 145-146)



Home Text About the Author About this Project Bibliography
© Kirsten Abbott 2004