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Author Topic: Genesis 32: What Did Jacob Wrestle With?  (Read 22199 times)
PurpleHymnal
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« on: May 09, 2008, 09:41:50 AM »

So we all know the story about Jacob wrestling until morning, getting his name changed, and that was the key concept behind the British-Israelism we believed in, in the church. Gen. 32:28 is the verse that was most often proof-texted in this context.

However. Going back and rereading Genesis chapter 32 in both the Skeptics Annotated Bible, and a translated English version of the Torah, I have found that the story is not exactly as I remember it.

The SAB, taken from the KJV, has Jacob wrestling with a man who won't give Jacob his name. (Gen. 32:24) By the time we reach verse 31 however, the "man" has become "God" who Jacob wrestled with face-to-face (and thus the name of the area became Peniel).

Let us leave aside the theory that Jakey was toking up on kaneh bosm, or the possibility of ergot poisoning. Or a nightmare based on a really stressful afternoon (hey, if YOUR brother had an army of four hundred people amassed to kill you and all you own, you'd be stressed too).

I remember in the church, the "man" Jacob wrestled with was always portrayed as an angel. No not the shiny-happy-fluffy harps-and-feathers angels the evangelicals like to parade around. Our angels were srs bzns yo. Think the eyes on the wheels within wheels from Elijah. Yeah. Or the creatures Ezekiel hallucinated while he was dying of hunger in Babylon. Or the angels of the trumpets from that detestable book of Rev. (Would have been far better for crowd control, and would have cut way down on the dual prophecy bandwagons, if Constantine and the council had canonized the Apocalypse of Peter instead, in my opinion.)

Anyway, I decided to compare the KJV and the Judaic text. Now, the KJV just has it that the man becomes god in Jacob's eyes. The Torah has a different perspective:

Quote from: English Translation of the Torah Gen: 32:29
32:29 And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.'

Quote from: KJV Skeptics Annotated Bible Gen: 32:28
32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

(No I haven't figured out where the extra verse is yet.)

Back up a couple of verses, however, and we observe this:

Quote from: KJV Skeptics Annotated Bible Gen. 32:26
32:26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

Quote from: English Translation of the Torah Gen: 32:27
32:27 And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaketh.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.'

In both texts, the fact that "day was breaking" is significant, and the god entreats to be released because the day is breaking. Why is this important?

Jacob represented the patriarch of the monotheistic Judaic religion. The god he wrestled with needed to be released because day was breaking. Interpretations of the text through the ages have suggested Jacob wrestled with an angel, a demon, a man, or "god".

Is it possible the text is in fact nothing more than a religious allegory?

The patriarchal progenitor of the monotheistic Judaic religion may in fact have been portrayed in this section of the text as allegorically struggling with the sun-god, one of the polytheistic gods the Judaic religion entreated its followers to reject. Thus, the god had to be released in order for the sun to rise (day was breaking), thus suggesting that the patriarch of the monotheistic religion had "prevailed" over the sun-god. (That monotheism had prevailed over sun-worship.)

This text also correlates with the parable from the Egyptian Book of Gates, where Horus struggles with Ra in a similar manner. The Egyptian text embellishes it a bit more.

Yow. My brain hurts.  Evil
« Last Edit: May 09, 2008, 11:11:31 AM by PurpleHymnal » Logged
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