Genesis 32 – Jacob is renamed Israel
On their journey Jacob encounters ‘the angels of god.’ This is all it says of them. Jacob renames the area because of their meeting but the text says nothing about why they were there, if they talked of anything, or what they looked like. We haven’t gotten an actual description of an angel yet, we are all taught what angels look like but where do we get this from the bible.
v.3, Jacob sends servants to Esau to tell him that he has been with Laban until now; that he comes with herds and servants, and asks for favor in the sight of Esau.
The servants return in v.6 and tell him that Esau comes to meet his brother and is bringing 400 men with him.
Jacob is scared so he splits up his group into two groups so that if Esau kills one the other has a chance to survive.
Jacob prays to god reminding him that he told Jacob to return to this land and asking for him to deliver their group safely. A couple questions; if he was going to ask for safe travel and believed he would get it from his god, why would he have split the group in two? If god told him to return and said he would ‘deal well with thee’ why would he need to ask for safety?
v.14-15 details the present that Jacob intends to give to Esau. He sends out his servants to meet Esau and give the gifts before he meets him.
v.22-23 says he sends his wives, their servants, and their sons ‘over the brook’ and he stayed at the camp.
A strange occurrence in v.24-30, not only is the experience strange but the language used to describe it is difficult to interpret; it uses the word he multiple times talking about both of the characters, this is how I understand the fight went.
Jacob was alone in the camp and wrestled a man through the night.
At dawn when the other guy, I’ll call him G, saw he couldn’t prevail over Jacob G ‘touched the hollow of his thigh’ and put his leg out of joint (dirty fighting?) G tells Jacob to let him go before the day comes, Jacob says not until he blesses him (what?! why would he want a blessing from an unnamed person he was fighting who dislocated his leg).
v.27 G asks what Jacob’s name is (no introductions before the fight apparently)
v.28, Jacob is renamed Israel.
v.29, Jacob asks G his name, but the only response he gets is to be asked why he wants G’s name. Strange thing to ask since G only just asked Jacob/Israel his name; and then he blesses Jacob/Israel.
v.30, Jacob names the place of the fight Peniel (which apparently means ‘the face of god’). He explains that he has seen god face to face and lived.
Jacob explains that he saw, and most likely wrestled, a corporeal god. If this is god why did he ask Jacob his name? Why did he not tell Jacob who he was? and the biggest one of all, Why was he fighting with Jacob?
In v.28, Jacob was renamed (like Abram) but in v.29 and after he is still called Jacob. In the story of Abram he was never again called Abram after he was renamed Abraham.
It says that as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose, and he ‘halted upon his thigh.’ I don’t understand this statement very well, I assume it means he couldn’t walk on his leg because it was out of place but it could mean that as he was passing over the place it got better.
v.32 explains that the Jews don’t eat the ‘sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh’ because G touched Jacob in his thigh during the fight.
This verse is very clearly an anachronism. It tells about the eating habits of the Jews ‘unto this day’; it is added information that isn’t part of the story being told.
Think about playing telephone when we were kids; so much information is changed in just a short sentence being passed through a few people. Now think about the decades and centuries that the stories of the bible were passed down verbally before being written down. Admissions must be made of the possibility of the information not being passed in its entirety and not exactly as it had been told the first time. Just this admission puts the most basic doubts on the stories held in these books, chapters, and verses.