Walter Brueggemann  

On Jacob's Wrestling Episode

"This enigmatic report of [Jacob's] strenuous night leaves us with two great imponderables. First, it is not clear who Jacob meets in the night...In the daytime, we would ask, 'Now, which is it, God or man?'

But at night things are not sorted out. There is in this meeting a convergence of the odiousness of holiness and the dreadfulness of brother. That, of course, is how it is in the night. We never get God alone, without all the complexities and unresolve of the neighborhood. And we never get wronged brother alone, without the threatening face of God. The narrator understands that the hidden powers of conflict and the hidden chance of resolve occur at night, beyond our intent.

There is something of the divine in our deep human conflict and something of humanness in the holiness of God, for at night heaven and earth come at us jointly and redefine us in radical ways...

"[Secondly] one cannot be sure if the 'partner' in wrestling is only adversary or also advocate...Jacob finishes his night with a radically new identity, one that opens the future for his people...

"That ambiguous quality is how it is in the night, when we are vulnerable and not in control. In the daytime, we can distinguish between adversaries and advocates. But at night nothing is clear, and nobody is to be trusted excessively. For the night leaves us haunted by partners who themselves give mixed and unclear messages. By engaging his anxieties, Jacob is wounded. By not flinching in the dark, he wins through to a blessing, even from an enemy who had not intended to grant a blessing."

from "The Struggle Toward Reconciliation" from Talking about Genesis: A Resource Guide