December 01, 2006

Breadcrumb: Wrestling with God

In Gen. 32:24-32, Jacob wrestles with a man he believes to be God, and is given a new name, Israel. It is interesting to note that, like the later Jesus stories, the man never identifies himself as God, but merely refuses to give his name. It is Jacob who names the location "Peniel," after the Hebrew for "face of God."

Also, this story reads like a classic myth or fairy tale, because of the ending: "Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he [the man] touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank." (Gen. 32:32, KJV) This is the first instance of such a moral ("this is why we do things today") in Genesis.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Israel looks like "fighter with God" but really means "fighter for El" ("El" = "God", and "god", and a very specific Canaanite deity called "El").

The story is based on the premise that the Israelites were descended from a person called "Israel". But that's a later invention; the original claim was that they were "Israelites" because they were descended from "Sarah" - the root of "Israel" and "Sarah" is the same (SRA).

Sarah is more original to the folk narrative than either "Israel (the person)" or Abraham.