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Wrestling with

God

Jacob’s journey from independence to submission

F

BY DONALD E. BURKE

A Complex Character Jacob was a fully fleshed, complex human being—perhaps the first such character portrayed in the Bible. He was a schemer ready to take advantage of anyone in his way and yet also a victim of his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob wrestled 20 • March 2015 • Salvationist

Image: Wikimedia Commons

rom the very beginning of his story, Jacob wrestled with others. The Bible recounts that he tussled with his twin brother, Esau, while still in their mother’s womb. That in utero conflict foreshadowed most of his relationships. Driven by ambition, he alienated himself from those closest to him. But the Jacob we encounter at the end of Genesis, near the end of his life, is different from the Jacob of earlier chapters. He is a changed man. The dreams of his youth had been tempered by the reality of life. His ambition and assertiveness had been transformed into utter reliance upon his sons, especially Joseph. Rather than rushing forward to make things happen, as was so characteristic of his early years, he had learned the discipline of waiting. The dynamic of his life had changed in fundamental ways. Perhaps he was simply more mature, the result of his many years. Perhaps the realization that he had passed on the tormented family relationships of his early life to his children gave him pause. Perhaps his two dramatic encounters with God—one at Bethel (see Genesis 28) and one at the Jabbok (see Genesis 32)—had a deeper impact upon him than one might first imagine. Regardless of what led to the change, the change itself is remarkable. Jacob learned to submit to God. Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

with almost everyone he met—and especially with God. Overarching all of Jacob’s life was God’s pronouncement, before they were born, that Jacob would be the master of his older brother (see Genesis 25:23). In

his final years, his life was a quilt woven together from the interplay between his own rebelliousness and God’s repeated blessing. We see hints of the inscrutable purposes and determination of God to make something of this family on the

Salvationist - March 2015  
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