A Midnight Wrestling Match
Jacob and the Angel
Genesis xxx: 25,
to xxxiii: 20
stayed a long time in the land of Haran, much longer
than he had expected to stay. And in that land Jacob
became rich. As wages for his work with Laban, Jacob
took a share of the sheep, and oxen, and camels. And
since Jacob was very wise and careful in his work,
his share grew larger, until Jacob owned a great
flock and much cattle. At last, after twenty years,
Jacob decided to go back to the land of Canaan, and
to his father Isaac, who was still living, though
now very old and feeble.
Jacob did not tell his uncle Laban that he was going
away; but while Laban was absent from home, Jacob
gathered together his wives, and children, and all
his sheep and cattle, and camels, and he stole away
quietly. When Laban found that Jacob had left him,
he was not at all pleased; for he wished Jacob still
to care for the things that he owned, for Jacob
managed them better than Laban himself, and God
blessed everything that Jacob undertook. Then, too,
Laban did not like to have his two daughters, the
wives of Jacob, taken so far away from him.
So Laban and the men who were with him followed
after Jacob; but that night God spoke to Laban in a
dream and said:
"Do no harm to Jacob, when you meet him."
Therefore, when Laban came to where Jacob was in his
camp on Mount Gilead, on the east of the river
Jordan, Laban spoke kindly to Jacob. And Jacob and
Laban made a covenant, that is a promise between
them. They piled up a heap of stones, and on it they
set up a large rock like a pillar; and beside the
heap of stones they ate a meal together; and Jacob
said to Laban:
"I promise not to go past this heap of stones, and
this pillar to do you any harm. The God of your
grandfather, Nahor, and the God of my grandfather,
Abraham, be the judge between us."
And Laban made the same promise to Jacob; and then
he kissed his daughters, Jacob's two wives, and all
of Jacob's children, and bade them good-by; and
Laban went back to Haran, and Jacob went on to
And Jacob gave two names to the heap of stones where
they had made the covenant. One name was "Galeed," a
word which means, "The heap of Witness." The other
was "Mizpah," which means "Watch-tower." For Jacob
said, "The Lord watch between you and me, when we
are absent from each other."
While Jacob was going back to Canaan, he heard news
that filled him with fear. He heard that Esau, his
brother, was coming to meet him, leading an army of
four hundred men. He knew how angry Esau had been
long before, and how he had threatened to kill him.
And Jacob feared that Esau would now come upon him,
and kill, not only Jacob himself, but his wives and
his children. If Jacob had acted rightly toward his
brother, he need not have feared Esau's coming; but
he knew how he had wronged Esau, and he was terribly
afraid to meet him.
That night Jacob divided his company into two parts;
so that if one part were taken the other part might
escape. And he sent onward before him, as a present
to his brother, a great drove of oxen and cows, and
sheep and goats, and camels and asses; hoping that
by the present his brother might be made more kind
toward him. And then Jacob prayed earnestly to the
Lord God to help him. After that he sent all his
family across a brook that was in his path, called
the brook Jabbok, while he stayed alone on the other
side of the brook to pray again.
And while Jacob was alone, he felt that a man had
taken hold of him, and Jacob wrestled with this
strange man all the night. And the man was an angel
from God. They wrestled so hard, that Jacob's thigh
was strained in the struggle. And the angel said:
"Let me go, for the day is breaking."
And Jacob said:
"I will not let thee go until thou dost bless me."
And the angel said:
"What is your name?"
And Jacob answered, "Jacob is my name."
Then the angel said:
"Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but
Israel, that is 'He who wrestles with God.' For you
have wrestled with God and have won the victory."
And the angel blessed him there. And the sun rose as
the angel left him; and Jacob gave a name to that
place. He called it Peniel, or Penuel, words which
in the language that Jacob spoke mean "The Face of
God." "For," said Jacob, "I have met God face to
face." And after this Jacob was lame, for in the
wrestle he had strained his thigh.
And as Jacob went across the brook Jabbok, early in
the morning, he looked up, and there was Esau right
before him. He bowed with his face to the ground,
over and over again, as people do in those lands
when they meet some one of higher rank than their
own. But Esau ran to meet him, and placed his arms
around his neck, and kissed him; and the two
brothers wept together. Esau was kind and generous
to forgive his brother all the wrong that he had
done; and at first he would not receive Jacob's
present, for he said: "I have enough, my brother."
But Jacob urged him, until at last he took the
present. And so the quarrel was ended, and the two
brothers were at peace.
Jacob came to Shechem, in the middle of the land of
Canaan, and there he set up his tents; and at the
foot of the mountain, although there were streams of
water all around, he dug his own well, great and
deep; the well where Jesus sat and talked with a
woman many ages after that time; and the well that
may be still seen. Even now the traveler who visits
that place may drink water from Jacob's well.
After this Jacob had a new name, Israel, which
means, as we have seen, "The one who wrestles with
God." Sometimes he was called Jacob, and sometimes
Israel. And all those who come from Israel, his
descendants, were called Israelites.
After this Isaac died, very old, and was buried by
his sons Jacob and Esau, in the cave at Hebron where
Abraham and Sarah were buried already. Esau with his
children and his cattle went away to a land on the
southeast of Canaan, which was called Edom. And
Jacob, or Israel, and his family lived in the land
of Canaan dwelling in tents, and moving from place
to place, where they could find good pasture, or
grass upon which to feed their flocks.
Jacob and the Angel