He Who Grasps the Heel

Rebekah is expecting and hurting. The violent struggle within her is so surprising she describes it as wrestling. When the twins are born the younger is pulled out still holding on to the older Esau's heel and is therefore named Jacob: "he who grasps the heel." (Genesis 25:26)

Over the years Jacob's conniving and deception shades the meaning of his name to mean "the deceiver." (Genesis 26:37) Continually he hides behind and seeks the admiration of women, he desperately seeks the security of worldly possessions, and he repeats his father’s mistakes of favoritism and cowardice. Through it all he uses his words as weapons, seeks even the leverage of witchcraft, and twists even the words of God. (Genesis 31:12) He lives a life aligned with his name. It is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Jacob is waiting at the shore of the Jabbok for the brother he betrayed to bring his private army to meet him. He is brought to the end of himself: no longer hiding behind his women, bereft of his worldly goods, he is alone… and the Angel of the Lord comes down beside him again to wrestle. Scripture tells us that towards the end of the night, the Angel of the Lord struck his hip, removing Jacob's power to flee or fight. The Angel of Lord tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob desperately responds "I will not let you go unless you bless me…" and the Angel gently asks "what is your name?"

We can imagine Jacob's shoulders slumping at the reminder. "I'm Jacob. The deceiver. He who reaches for what is not his."

God loves symmetry. He loves to redeem the broken. I like to imagine that in this moment Jacob is on the ground, hip destroyed. Unable to flee. Unable to fight. On his face with his hip shattered, furiously holding onto the heel of the Angel. All these years of God's kindly pursuit of him. Jacob is no longer content to leave behind the places he thinks God dwells. Jacob wants God to stay with him. In his mercy God brings him again to a symmetrical moment to his life's beginning: another wrestling match, another grabbing of the heel, and another Father naming his child.

"Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel," (Genesis 32:28)

Praise the Lord.

  • 2023-07-31 14:08:35 -0500
    Rename markdown -> md

  • 2023-06-26 19:03:16 -0500
    First draft