Jacob Wrestled

The life of Jacob is uniquely defined by his ability to wrestle. Even in his mother’s womb, Jacob fought against fate. Refusing to be second place, Jacob emerges clutching the heel of his brother Esau. Throughout his life, Jacob seems to have an unmatched determination to get what he felt he deserved. 

  • As an infant, he refused to settle for second place
  • As a young man, he fought back against his father’s favoritism of Esau
  • He bargains with Esau, exchanging a bowl of soup for the birthright he fought for in the womb. 
  • He plots with his mothers in a deceptive ploy to steal the blessing from Isaac. 

As a result, Jacob finds himself having to flee. He moves to Laban’s house, where he would meet a man more cunning and deceptive than himself. Jacob works tirelessly for Rachel’s hand in marriage, only to wake up next to Leah. Jacob, so in love with Rachel, works an additional seven years for the opportunity to marry his beloved bride. 

God blesses everything Jacob touches. Yet, Jacob finds himself once again wrestling against his conspiring father-in-law. Jacob, after the birth of Joseph, requests to return to “his land” in Canaan. Realizing his promise, Jacob was ready to claim his land. Laban, in his cunningly deceptive ways, essentially tells Jacob that if he wants to leave, he has to work for it. 

Jacob, seeing through the deception, makes Laban an offer he can’t resist. Jacob asked for only the colored or speckled lambs. Understand, most of Laban’s lambs would’ve been white. The presence of a black or speckled lamb would’ve been rare. Laban agrees. 

In keeping with his deceitful nature, Laban removes all of the animals from his herd that could quickly produce speckled offspring, for he wanted to keep Jacob around longer (vv. 35–36). But as we will see, God will give this cheater what he deserves. 

Jacob took “took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.” He placed these in the watering troughs as a visual to the sheep. God blessed Jacob mightily, and Jacob’s flocks grew!

Though it often expressed itself in deceit, Jacob’s tenacious nature was an asset to him. The way Laban cheated him with Rachel and Leah was merely a temporary setback; he dared to press on for what he wanted. Moreover, he would instead work for Laban than go away, unable to feed his family. Such perseverance is one mark of discipleship—the willingness to persevere regardless of opposition. The relentlessness to never give up chasing your purpose. Jacob had finally done it, and now it’s time to go home. Only now, Jacob’s greatest battle awaits. 

Esau made a promise that when Isaac dies, Jacob would be next. Jacob is fearful of Esau’s retribution. So he sends messengers, gifts, and even his own family ahead of him to appease Esau’s anger. Jacob is left alone. 

As Jacob is alone, in the middle of the night, a man appears and wrestles with Jacob. Jacob’s tenacious personality rises to the occasion once again, and these men fight until daybreak. The man Jacob wrestled wasn’t an ordinary man; it was an angel of God. 

The scene is symbolic of Jacob’s entire life. Up until now, everything Jacob had he had to fight to get. Jacob’s tenacity was on full display. The combative nature that existed since Jacob’s days in the womb was entangled with this angelic being all night. 

When you read the text in Genesis 32, you find an interesting dynamic between verses 25 and 26. In verse 25, Jacob was wrestling against God; as a result, God touched the hollow of his thigh, and his hip was dislocated from his socket. Yet when we read verse 26, the Bible says that God demands Jacob to let him go, yet Jacob’s response was, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” 

Something transpires between verse 25 and verse 26, somehow during the jolt of pain that was his hip being disjointed; Jacob went from wrestling with God to holding onto God. Jacob wasn’t wrestling any longer; in his suffering, Jacob was holding on for dear life. 

When Jacob stopped resisting God, he realized who he had struggled against all these years. For his entire life, Jacob depended upon his strength to overcome his obstacles. As Jacob wrestled with God, God crippled him so that Jacob would learn that the avenue to real power is through weakness! And until we learn this revelation, we will always live in a struggle. 

Think about, the angel Jacob wrestled wasn’t sent to fight Jacob. He was sent to bless Jacob. Yet, Jacob was accustomed to fighting for his destiny. As a result, Jacob was wrestling the very thing that was supposed to bless him. 

Sometimes we suffer pain, not so we can learn how strong God is; but rather how weak we are. When we depend upon our abilities, we are limited to what only we can do. When we are comfortable in our weaknesses, His strength is made perfect. Therefore, when I depend on God, I am now dependent on His power and strength. 

Jacob finally got the revelation. Jacob finally learned that his struggle was indeed within himself. When he learned to embrace his weakness, Jacob realized how powerful God indeed was. 

It’s no wonder, when Hebrews 11 lists the “heroes of faith,” that we see mighty men and incredible exploits. When Jacob’s faith is highlighted, it comes unusually. 

Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”

Of all the things Jacob overcame, and of all the things Jacob obtained with God, the one thing that makes the list of remembrance is that Jacob worshipped leaning on his staff? Understand, the only reason Jacob had a cane was to aid him in walking, because of the condition of his hip. The staff was a reminder of his weakness.

Yet as Jacob prays one of his last prayers and blesses his grandsons, Jacob doesn’t shy away from his weakness; he embraced it. He willingly leaned on the top of his staff, to show the next generation, it’s ok to be weak. Because when I am weak, He is strong. 

That night, Jacob had to lie. He would no longer be known as Jacob, but Israel. When Jacob stopped depending on himself, he was transformed

from a deceiver to a prevailer. Jacob had to die so that Israel could live. 

Published by Joshua McElhaney

Joshua McElhaney has served over 15 years in ministry, serving as both an Assistant Pastor for over a decade, and as lead Pastor. During his time in leadership, Joshua learned many valuable lessons about leading. Using his own experiences and the troves of Biblical treasures, McElhaney has created resources that will enlighten, empower, and enable leaders across the spectrum to lead the way God has called them to lead. Joshua married Karena, his college sweetheart, in June of 2007. Together they have three beautiful children; Mayli, Jaxson, and Asher.

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