Jacob in the Bible

Who did Jacob wrestle with and how did Jacob become Israel?

dore-jacob

How did Jacob become Israel? The life of Jacob in the Bible is full of interesting episodes. Genesis 32 records that Jacob wrestled a stranger—possibly an angel or God. The stranger blesses Jacob and gives him a new name. This image by Gustave Doré is titled “Jacob Wrestles with the Angel.”

Who did Jacob wrestle with in the Bible?

Genesis 32 describes an interesting encounter from the life of Jacob. On his way to meet his twin brother Esau (for the first time after a falling out 20 years earlier), Jacob and his party approach the Jabbok River. Sending his family and servants across the river before him, Jacob stays on the other side by himself, where he meets a mysterious man: “Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Genesis 32:24).

In the September/October 2014 issue of BAR, Phyllis Trible addresses this story in her Biblical Views column “Wrestling with Faith.” She connects this episode from the life of Jacob in the Bible to her own struggle with feminism and the Bible.

Who is this man? Who did Jacob wrestle with?

Hosea 12:4 says that the man was an angel or messenger. Rabbis content that the man was Esau, and folklorists say the man was a night demon or river demon. Modern therapists suggest that the man was none other than Jacob himself.

Theologians usually say that the man Jacob wrestled was God, and Jacob also came to this conclusion. After the wrestling match, Jacob named the place Penuel, which means “face of God”—as Jacob says, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).

In her column, Trible remarks that the man with whom Jacob wrestles is “not all powerful, for the coming of dawn restrains his physical aggression. He is not prevailing. So he resorts to an obscene tactic, striking Jacob at his manhood.”

Yet despite this blow, still Jacob holds onto his attacker, saying, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).

The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.

How did Jacob become Israel? While perhaps this moment might seem like an odd time to us as modern readers for a name change or a blessing, that is exactly what happens.

After asking Jacob his name, the man says, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). Trible explains, “The stranger gives Jacob (whose name in folk etymology suggests a grasper, schemer or conniver) the new name Israel (“God rules”).”

While the man refuses to give Jacob his own name—which would definitively answer our query—he still blesses him.

Who did Jacob wrestle with in the Bible? An angel, man, demon or God? Support for each of these contenders can be found in different camps.

Whoever the stranger was, he departs after giving Jacob a blessing. This episode from Jacob’s life ends as the morning dawns: “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip” (Genesis 32:31). Despite his new name and blessing, the wrestling match was not cost-free for Jacob. Wounded, he limps from the scene.

Trible uses this chapter from the life of Jacob in the Bible to illustrate the dialogue between feminism and the Bible. Blessings do not always come on our terms, but that is no reason to quit wrestling.

To find out more about more about this story from Jacob’s life and how feminism and the Bible relate, read the full column “Wrestling with Faith” by Phyllis Trible, Professor Emerita of Sacred Literature at Union Theological Seminary in New York, in the September/October 2014 issue of BAR.
 


 
BAS Library Members: Read the full column “Wrestling with Faith” by Phyllis Trible in the September/October 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
Four outstanding scholars—including Phyllis Trible—look closely at a number of prominent women in the Bible and the men to whom they relate in Feminist Approaches to the Bible, published by the Biblical Archaeology Society. Learn more >>
 

 

Learn more about feminism and the Bible in the BAS Library:

Jane Schaberg, “Are Feminists Biased About the Bible?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2011.

“Wrestling with Scripture,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.

Marc Zvi Brettler, “My View: On Becoming a Male Feminist Bible Scholar,” Bible Review, April 1994.

Pamela J. Milne, “Feminist Interpretations of the Bible: Then and Now,” Bible Review, October 1992.

Phyllis Trible, “If The Bible’s So Patriarchal, How Come I Love It?” Bible Review, October 1992.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

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  1. Paul says

    I also agree with Phyllis Trible’s interpretation of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel as having to do with our own personal struggle with so-called divinely inspired scripture. After Jacob stole the blessing from his brother Esau he set off for Paddan Aram (Genesis 28:7) and the scripture then mentions that upon realizing his mother didn’t approve of his choice of wives, Esau sought to remedy this by marrying yet another wife , making him the proverbial spoiled child as Jacob sought refuge from his wrathful brother and set out for a place of refuge, penniless and alone
    . Paddan Aram is the region that was formerly part of the Hurrian Empire and during the early part of the 15th centuery B.C.E. there was a king by the name of Idrimi who ruled over the kingdom of Alalah on the Orontes river in western Syria. An autobiographal inscription found on a statue of this king mentions that he, like Jacob who had spent 14 years in exile working for his two wives (Genesis 29:15-20; Hosea 12:13), also had “spent seven years among the Hapiru before setting sail for the land of Mukish, where he established himself. From there, after a further seven years, Idrimi sent an ambassador with tribute to Parratattarna, the Hurrian king, and having sworn a binding oath as a loyal vassal he became king of Alalah and ruled for 30 years” (“Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East” by Michael Roaf, pp.132-133).

  2. Paul says

    I should have said that Paddan Aram was formerly part of the Mitanni Empire and in my pocket Hebrew dictionary the word “mitni” means “one dwelling at the unknown place.” It is interesting how in the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel that it was Jacob’s private parts that were the target but the angel missed and so the word which is similar to “Mitanni” is missing. “Loins” in Hebrew is “motnayim” (and also refers to the waist area); “as the loincloth cings to a man’s loins” (Jeremiah 13:11).

  3. Chrystine H. says

    Talk about wresting the scriptures. I’ve never heard such a bunch of twaddle!

  4. Doug says

    If we are to believe Ms Trible, “feminism” is at war with the Bible, and with those who believe it. Choose the Bible or feminism was the ultimatum, she says. Yet she declares herself a feminist, and also a believer who wrestles with her faith. So, what are readers to do with this conundrum? It would have been instructive for Ms Trible to have defined what she means by “feminism.” Is there more than one kind? We are left to think that Ms Trible is not really a “feminist” after all. That makes the essay little more than a space filler in an otherwise wonderful magazine. Readers have come to expect better than this dribble.

  5. dave says

    The problem with most people today is is that they try to fit the bible into their worthless, worldly opinions, and it does not work. In Second Timothy 2:15 we are admonised to study to show ourselves approved. Again, the problem is is that most people do not. They just take someone esle‘s word for it, and many times the interpretation is wrong.

    Also, many times the opinions of these so-called theologians is worthless. Instead of clearifying scripture, they throw out some wild unbiblical idea(s) which just adds more cofusion into the mix.

    In this case, when the bible says Jacob wrestled with God that is what it means. The bible clearly states that. The scripture does not mean anything else. It is cut and dry.

    This is the reason I avoid many biblical interpretations today, because they are worthless.

  6. Jim says

    A “river demon?” Jacob wrestled a “river demon” from whom he demanded a blessing? Oh, wait, he wrestled with himself and put his *own* hip out of joint? The problem I see is one of taking the story at face value (Jacob existed and he did actually wrestle with someone), but stopping short of Jacob’s own declaration that it was God — and as some might suggest, that it none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus Himself in a theophany. The article skates on pretty thin theological ice only to score flimsy political points while missing the momentous significance of Jacob’s name-change. I simply could not grasp what the Jacob story has to do with feminism at all.

  7. cindy says

    This is ridiculous! The Bible is the Word of God. The infallible Word. If Jacob said it was God than that’s who he wrestled with. Who would better know than him! I am so tired of so called theologians and experts in the Bible trying to explain things to fit their ideas. The Word is the Word and I’m sure God is laughing at all the fools that try to change it.

  8. Paul says

    “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven (saritha) with God (elohim) and with men (enoshim) and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:29). The translation from the J.P.S. version reads “elohim” in this verse as “divine beings” which pairs perfectly with “enoshim” which is the plural form of “enosh” or man. The entity that Jacob wrestled was therefore not God but a single angel or messenger. I’m so glad that Ms.Trible went right to the point with her viewpoint as a feminist to contest scripture that was passed down to us from male-dominated societies (who didn’t benefit from discoveries in archaeology). I’ve known in my heart for years what the author of this article is offering to those who have an ear, so that my personal spin on this story is that Jacob grabbed hold of this divine emissary’s private parts (Genesis 32:27). Remeber Jesus’ warning about false messiahs and false prophets who will try to deceive even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

  9. clay says

    I propose that the angel of the Lord that Jacob wrestled with was a pre-incarnate Jesus. It makes sense on a lot of sides including the authority to change Jacob’s name and the expressed will of .the angel to change Jacob emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

  10. Wilfredo says

    With your respect I do believed Jacob wrestled with angel not the Lord as well. The same angel send by God to Lot and other biblical characters, If you read Exodus 33:18 -23 Moses demanding to show his glory at verse 18, and in verse 20. But, ” he said “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me alive.”, This passages stated clearly that even the mighty men’s of God don’t have any close encounter to the living God or else they will die, our flesh(corruptible) cannot hold or stay any longer to the presence and glory of our living God, read verses 21-23. for me it is angel the messenger of God.

  11. Paul says

    Correct, Wilfredo, and this is confirmed by the philosopher Moses Maimonides in the “Guide for the Perplexed” (chapter 42) where he states that “the account of the vision of Jacob begins, ‘And the angels of God met him’ (Genesis32:2); then follows a detailed description how it came to pass that they met him; namely, Jacob sent messengers, and after having prepared and done certain things, ‘he was left alone,’ etc., ‘and a man wrestled with him’ (ibid. ver. 24). By this term ‘man’ [one of] the angels of God is meant, mentioned in the phrase ‘And the angels of God met him’; the wrestling and speaking was entirely a prophetic vision.”
    The pre-incarnate Jesus that Clay mentioned appeared to Jacob in the vision of the stairway to heaven (Genesis 28:12-13), as interpreted in the New Testament; “You will see heaven opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man (John 1:51).

  12. Kurt says

    On various occasions when individuals were visited or addressed by an angelic messenger of Jehovah, the individuals, or at times the Bible writer setting out the account, responded to or spoke of that angelic messenger as though he were Jehovah God. (Compare Ge 16:7-11, 13; 18:1-5, 22-33; 32:24-30; Jg 6:11-15; 13:20-22.) This was because the angelic messenger was acting for Jehovah as his representative, speaking in his name, perhaps using the first person singular pronoun, and even saying, “I am the true God.” (Ge 31:11-13; Jg 2:1-5)
    Jacob’s concern about obtaining the birthright and his wrestling all night with an angel to get a blessing show that he truly appreciated sacred things. Jehovah has entrusted us with a number of sacred things, such as our relationship with him and his organization, the ransom, the Bible, and our Kingdom hope. May we prove to be like Jacob in showing appreciation for them.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200273010

  13. David says

    I’m a man. Let me interpret feminist literature for you. Get the picture?

  14. Gene R. says

    I believe Kurt (# 12) is on the right track. His citations from Genesis and Judges show how the angels were used to deliver divine messages, or even interact as the angel did by wrestling with Jacob. As careful study of those other accounts shows, they were clearly identified as angels but then would sometimes speak in the first person in delivering a message from God. Even the account of Moses receiving the Law on Mt Sinai suggests angelic presence. Galatians 3:19–”Why, then, the Law?…….it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.”

    It is exciting to anticipate in the very near future, the angelic involvement in the establishing of Kingdom rule by God and Christ over this wayward planet as the book of Revelation predicts. Already we see the good news of that coming new heaven and new earth being proclaimed throughout the earth, guided by angelic direction. (Rev. 14:6,7: 21:1-4: Matt.24:14)

  15. Peter says

    Keep your feministic beliefs separate from the simple message of our Father God’s revelation to Jacob’s picture of suffering, tears and pain to inherit a patriarchal kingdom, Israel, which was previously conferred by God’s blessing to his grandfather Abraham (Gen 12ff.) and father Isaac. This in turn was to be a picture of Jesus, God’s Messiah Son, who in tears, suffering and pain suffered on the Cross, to inherit the Kingdom from His Father, namely those who turn to Christ by faith and repentance.
    Acts 3:25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. ’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (ESV)
    As much as you might receive comfort in your one-sided, and ill-conceived beliefs, let’s keep mindful of rightly dividing the Scriptures and stop trying to divert from a truer understanding of the text.

  16. Paul says

    In response to Peter I would add that the birth of the kingdom of Israel which is celebrated in the oldest known biblical scripture known as the “Song of Moses” (Exodus 15:1-18) was coupled with the “Song of Miriam” (Exodus 15:21). Israel was therefore not exclusively patriarchial as is attested by another very old poem, the “Song of Deborah” (Judges 5:1-31). Also it was the women who first noticed the body of Jesus missing from the tomb (Luke 24:1-11). So when we read in Exodus 6:3 that Yahweh had formerly manifested Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as “El Shaddai,” which refers to the diety worshipped by Israel’s ancestors to the northeast beyond the Euphrates River. El Shaddai is translated by the rabbis as “it is sufficient” and is suited to the nomadic pastoralist lifestyle (that is simplistic, as commentator Peter stated regarding his personal belief-system) that is reliant on God for sustenance, but not necessarily suited to the more complex mode of life for Israel’s settlement in the land of Canaan.

  17. Paul says

    Correction: :”Shaddai” is translated as “it is sufficient” or “it is enough.”

  18. johanes says

    I read Hosea 12: 3-4 (KJV) and I don’t think I need a further interpretation. Let the Bible tells the Bible. Let me quote Hosea 12:3-4. (3) He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: (4). Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;

  19. Peter says

    Paul, Be careful that the axe you grind does not cut the one who grinds it.
    Exodus 3:15 “God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. ’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying… ” (ESV)
    Paul you can argue from this from your semantic point of view, though, when God indeed later addresses Himself as the Divine Name, He is still our God who spoke through the fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By the way, I never said “exclusively patriarchal”, in that Our Father God can not or does not speak to women. He is still the God, whom Jesus addressed as His Father and taught His disciples to address as “Our Father who is in Heaven….”

  20. Thomas says

    Jacob wrestled with none other than preincarnate Christ Himself, the great Angel (Messenger – not a created being) of the Covenant who repeatedly appears throughout the Old Testament and is called the Angel of the Lord – but who is worshipped and referred to as God.

  21. Paul says

    Sorry, Peter, I guess you walked right in to that one, and I also initially received the same doctrine in the simple seminal form that I took with me in my travels, until I encountered one of those false messiahs in the big city. The backdrop to the story of Jacob’s encounter with the angel has him returning from exile to the land of Canaan where he learns that his estranged brother Esau is coming with a “welcoming committee” of 400 men, a number that signifies “cosmic resistance,” using religion with the accompaniment of arms as a weapon against the perceived intruder, Jacob. Against such as force, with the future hanging in the balance, Jacob cannot overcome the man/angel with traditional beliefs that often revolve around patriarchial societies such as the bond among men in a hunting party, exemplified by Esau.
    So basically the commentator Peter brings brings to the table all pertinent information that is correct except they are theoretical, having not yet been implemented, as was the status of Jacob before settling in Canaan. The Jewish mystics describe Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as not being complete until the arrival of Joseph, who is described as the fourth wheel of the chariot.
    Joseph was a term that the prophet Amos used for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, since this region for centuries had strong Egyptian influences as well as much of the southern Levant that functioned as an Egyptian lake. I would like to point out that two decades ago there was a false messiah by the name of David Koresh who rallied people to his ranch in Texas and made predictions that his confrontation with the Government would end in catastrophy which came true (I’ve noticed a trend with anti-Government movement leaders having issues with statuatory rape). He was the charasmatic type described in Amos 6:5; “They account themselves musicians like David.” These type of false messiahs like to be identified with King David, with all the trappings of a head of state, “but they are not concerned about the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:6), which refers to the loss of the Northern Kingdom’s autonomy following the conquest by the Assyrian Empire.
    As the commentator Peter mentioned above, the revelation of the divine name to Moses at the burning bush was abreviated to “Ehyeh” (I am) in order that the Israelites could understand (Exodus 3:14).
    “Then God taught Moses how to teach them, and how to establish amongst them the belief in the existance of Himself, namely. by saying Ehyeh asher Ehyeh, a name derived from the verb hayah in the sense of “existing,” for the verb hayah denotes “to be,” and in Hebrew no difference is made betwen the verbs “to be” and “to exist” (“Guide for the Perplexed” chapter 63).
    “Then said God, ‘Let be (yehi) light…’” (Genesis 1:3).
    “And it sall be (vahayah) in that day, each man shall save alive a heifer of the herd and two animals of the flock” (Isaiah 7:21). Here we see the implementation of the divine name in the form of a prediction, set against the backdrop of the collapse of the Northern Kingdom, of a future restoration beginning with the basics. The United Nations used to have such a program where an impoverished person could borrow a goat on credit and from there become self-sufficient. Even the former First Lady Hillary Clinton touted the U.N.’s international microcredit lending program in a televised interview, but sadly, she hinted at a domestic spying program using Oscar the Grouch as an experimental subject, saying she wants to “go steady” with him. Now everyone is under observation, our habits meticulously chronicled, like hunter’s game.
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/04/us/first-lady-talks-of-mice-and-men-on-rosie-show.html?

  22. Paul says

    There is a sinister aspect to this entity that Jacob wrestled with that falls into the category of a fallen angel mentioned in Jude 1:16 as “the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place.” The so-called Watchers who were entrusted with protecting people are similar to officials in the nation’s spy agencies, some of whom who are cycling in a revolving door between the public and private sector. We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg following the disclosure of the extensive N.S.A. surveillance program that is outsourced to civilian contractors where there is no oversight to hold them accountable. I guess the predicament that Jacob faced is; do I let this messenger just roll over me? Do we entrust ourselves to companies that profit at the expense of our privacy?
    “That is why he sacrifices to his trawl and makes offerings to his net; for through them his portion is rich and his nourishment fat” (Habakkuk 1:16).
    Recently it was reported how the C.I.A. used its spy capabilities to thwart an investigation by members of the Senate and it reminds me of that episode of the X-Files entitled, “The Musings of Cigarette Smoking Man.” The chain-smoking man who thwarts F.B.I. investigations by spying on them has this ambition of becoming a novelist and he kind of reminds me of the career of a former director of the N.S.A. who runs the firm that hired the lone hacker, Edward Snowden:
    http://www.salon.com/2010/03/29/mcconnell_3/

  23. news says

    From Tim,
    If I may add a realistic and Psychological perspective on the story of Jacob’s fight. It seems to me that people are often haunted by early events in their life. Things that they have done when they were to young to know enough. I’ll bet that Jacob carried the guilt of cheating his own flesh and blood throughout his life. Often people who carry such guilt re-enact the main scene of the event in question all through their lives. Some do it in their minds. Many do it in their actions. I believe that Jacob challenged a stronger man to a match to prove himself to himself to compensate for the self-esteem issue that guilt always leaves. This is par-for-the-course. If he wins then it is a sign that god favors him and he can let go of his guilt. If he looses then the injury he sustains (which might be his life) will be the punishment that he deserves and he can let go of his guilt. Interestingly the fight accomplishes both! Thus the guilt is relieved and he becomes a new man. And even obtains a new name! And to top it all off, he becomes a true servant of god. If I were to take a guess, I would think that god had sent this strong-armed opponent to achieve just the purpose that was achieved. Perhaps it was even a servant of Esau who was scouting the travelers. The servant then returning to Esau and declaring the terrible guilt Jacob walked with and the new man he had become. This would have been enough for the successful Esau to forgive his lost younger brother … Timothy
    PS. It is said that God knows your heart – sometimes it takes a terrible deed to teach a man (usually over time) to be both good and honest.

  24. news says

    From Tim,
    Thanks friends for your questions regarding the above. I have re-written it for clarity>

    I would like to add a realistic and somewhat psychological perspective on the story of Jacob’s fight: It seems to me that many people are haunted by early events in their lives. They are haunted because they did things that they regret but were, at the time, too young to know better. I will bet that Jacob carried the guilt of cheating his own flesh-and-blood throughout his life. I have known people who carry past guilt to re-enact the main scene of the event-in-question all through their lives. Some do it in their minds. Many do it in their actions. I believe that Jacob was re-enacting the theft of his own brother’s blessing hoping for a more acceptable outcome. Further, I believe that Jacob challenged a stronger man to a fighting match in order to prove something to himself, and also in part, to compensate for the self-esteem issue that guilt always brings. This is par-for-the-course: If he wins then it is a sign that god favours him. If god favours him then he can let go of his guilt. If he loses, then the injuries he sustains, as well as a damaged ego, will be the punishment that he deserves. Receiving his just-deserts will also allow him to let go of his guilt. With this in mind, one might understand how a tortured past might well lead a man to challenge a total stranger to a match. Most interesting is the fact that the fighting match accomplishes both aforemenioned ends! Thus the guilt is relieved and Jacob becomes a new man. So much so, that he is given a new name! To add icing, then-and-there Jacob becomes a true servant of god. An injured leg seems a small price to pay for such grace. So I ask myself, “Did god send this strong-armed opponent to achieve such a life changing moment?” In my own mind there is no doubt. If god sends, and then achieves his purpose, is it really important who it was that was sent? I would speculate that the purpose of the fight was so much more important than who the opponent might be, that the opponent’s identity was simply not revealed. For myself, I wonder if it might have been a servant of Esau who was scouting out the travelers. And when the servant returned he declared to Esau Jacob’s heretofore pain of betrayal and his subsequent renewal as a better man. This would have been enough for the successful Esau to forgive his lost younger brother.
    Timothy
    PS. It is said that God knows your heart – sometimes it takes a terrible deed, in order to teach a man to be both good and honest.

  25. Paul says

    Thank you Tim, for that psychological perspective that that gives this event a purely human appraoch to the divine experiance, and for the life of me I couldn’t comprehend what one of my mentors told me as a teenager; that God goes through cycles and in astonishment exclaims, “I am God!” Well we have such examples in the mystical tradition of the Maasah Merkevah (Workings of the Chariot) and in “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism” Gershom Scholem writes (p.79);
    “Was there not a temptation to regard man himself as the representative of divinity, his soul as the throne of glory, etc.? A step in this direction had been taken by Macarius the Egyptian, one of the earliest representatives of fourth century Christian monastic mysticism. ‘The opening of his first homily reads like a programme of his mystical faith. It offers a new explanation of the obscure vision of Ezekial (i.e. the Merkabah) . . . according to him, the prophet beholds the secret of the soul which is on the point of admitting its master and becoming a throne of his glory.’ We find an analogous reinterpretation of the Merkabah among the Jewish mystics in the thrice repeated saying of the third century Palestinian Talmudist Simeon ben Lakish: ‘The Patriarchs (i. e. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) – they are the Merkabah.’”
    It wasnt until the Middle Ages that perhaps in response to the crusades that there developed the idea of the “zaddik” or “righteous” personified by Joseph who serves as an example of keeping the covenant by resisting temptation and thus becomes a conduit to channel spiritual blessings (kind of like “streaming” on the net). In ancient times Joseph was associated with the city of Shechem (Genesis 48:22, Joshua 24:32) where the god “Baal Berith” (Lord of the Covenant) was worshipped and became the center of the fledging nation of Israel confederacy. So the tribal patriarchs evolve beyond their “phallocentric” ways and rally around the concept of a national identity founded on the Patriarchs with Joseph being the “divine phallus” as exemplified by Jesus at the well in Sychar (Shechem) when he talked of “living water,” i.e. streaming (John 4:10).
    In “Origins of the Kabbalah,” Gershom Scholem (p.156) refers to the this tradition, where there was the “special preference of the Talmud for calling men who have mastered their sexual instinct and nature, ‘righteous.’ In the literature of the early Middle Ages ‘the righteous’ came to be associated especially with Joseph as almost a fixed epithet.”

  26. Joe says

    Wait just a minute. Striking at his manhood? That’s not how I read the story or how it was taught to me in catechism. The story is that the angel struck him on his Achilles tendon causing it to wither making Jacob stagger, not that he hit him below the belt in such an unsportsmanlike way. God would not stoop so low. God is always honorable and attacking in such a way is dishonorable.

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