Thoughts we hold shape our lives. Spiritual ideas, when grappled with and understood, are even more transformative, as the biblical patriarch Jacob demonstrated when he wrestled with an angel, or message from God.
Grandson of Abraham, Jacob had an important role in the development of monotheism. But he started out thinking he had to wrestle his way to the top to attain the good in life. He induced his twin brother, Esau, to sell him his birthright. Then, at the bidding of his mother, who recognized God’s plan for Jacob, he caused his father to give him the blessing normally reserved for the elder son. When this resulted in Esau seeking to kill him, Jacob fled to Haran to live with his uncle, Laban. Jacob fell in love with his beautiful cousin, Rachel, and agreed to serve Laban seven years for her. But at the wedding, he was tricked into marrying Rachel’s elder sister, Leah. Jacob promised to serve Laban another seven years for Rachel. After twenty years of service to Laban and building up his own wealth, he obeyed God’s directive to return to Canaan.
As Jacob approached his homeland, messengers told him that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. In great fear, Jacob divided his people and his flocks and herds into two bands. After arranging for gifts to be sent to his brother, Jacob was alone at night, and the Bible records, “there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).