one of the patriarchs of the bible, jacob, was on his way to return home after his long residence with his father-in-law. he was in fear of a confrontation with his brother esau due to the fact that he had stolen esau’s birthright. while jacob was in fear, he also had become prosperous. he had two wives, many children, and many flocks. he was a success and had much to be proud about.
during his preparation for the inevitable confrontation, his is succumbed with fear and takes steps in the event that there a bad confrontation. the following event transpires.
“and jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the socket of his hip, and the socket of jacob’s hip became dislocated as he wrestled with him. and he (the angel) said, “let me go, for dawn is breaking,” but he (jacob) said, “i will not let you go unless you have blessed me.” so he said to him, “what is your name?” and he said, “jacob.” so he said to him, “what is your name?” and he said, “jacob.” and jacob asked and said, “now tell me your name,” and he said, “why is it that you ask for my name?” and he blessed him there. and jacob asked and said, “now tell me your name,” and he said, “why is it that you ask for my name?” And he blessed him there. And Jacob named the place peniel, for [he said,] “i saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved.” and the sun rose for him when he passed penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. genesis 33: 25-32
at that moment, it is my position that jacob didn’t understand how his soul was saved.
the story goes on with respect to the inevitable confrontation between jacob and esau.
“and he went ahead of them and prostrated himself to the ground seven times, until he came close to his brother. and esau ran toward him and embraced him, and he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” genesis 33: 3-4.
these were two proud men with a deep troubled history between the two of them. this was a situation in which which echoed that of cain and abel that which led to a murder. it is contended that god knew that he needed to divinely intervene in this matter to ensure that there would be no repeat of the past.
what was it?
the body blow which rendered jacob a cripple was the solution. after his match, jacob, physically was no longer an equal to esau. seeing jacob as a cripple perhaps eased esau’s mindset with respect to the confrontation. jacob physically was no longer a threat to him. likewise, for jacob, he was now crippled. any design of a future physical altercation with esau was gone. arguably, god physically imposed upon jacob humility. it was this humility that saved himself. arguably, it saved humanity. it was this humility that was part of god’s equation to prevent another cain and abel debacle.
thus, it is contended that the wrestling in the story served more than a devotional event. the devotional aspect, in part, being that, despite being hurt in this encounter, jacob, maintained his faith and did not retreat. there was pain associated with his devotion. the wrestling served as the means to physically imposition humility to save jacob’s life and repair his relationship with his brother.
what does this mean for us? when we have bad relationships, humility is the key. humility can be a bridge-builder to repair relationships. humility can be a healer in relationships. humility can be a way that we can put aside the past with others and move on to improved relationships. as merriam-webster defined humility, it is “the freedom from pride or arrogance.” with respect to humility, we know that when we think too much about ourselves, we lose the ability to relate to others.