Abraham’s son Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau was first in line to inherit the birthright that would place him in the lineage of Jesus Christ, but he despised it, caring nothing for God’s promise. Younger brother Jacob wanted to be in the lineage of God’s promises. So Rebekah, their mother, being partial to Jacob, helped him trick his blind father into giving him the birthright. Knowing Esau would discover the deception and kill his brother, his mother immediately sent Jacob far away to live with his uncle, Laban.
Jacob stayed there for twenty years and accumulated great wealth, two wives, and many children. After twenty years he headed home. But then he received word that his brother was coming with four hundred men of war. So he divided his people and animals into two groups, with the thought that maybe half of them would survive.
Then Jacob moved out of harm’s way and lay down to sleep. When it grew late, a figure lunged at Jacob out of the darkness. Desperately, Jacob and the stranger were locked in mortal combat. Hour after hour they rolled on the ground and attempted to gain mastery of each other. When the day began to break, the attacker tried to separate himself from Jacob’s firm grip, but Jacob would not give up. He was fighting for his life and the lives of his family. He was not a pacifist.
“And when he [the attacker] saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he [Jacob] said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:25–26).
Jacob had surmised that this was no ordinary man; it was God himself come in a human body to subdue the stubborn Jacob.
So the angel of the LORD blessed Jacob and gave him a new name—and only then did Jacob release him from his tight hold. From that day forward Jacob was blessed. His brother reluctantly accepted him without any bloodshed. But Jacob would have a permanent limp from the blow the angel inflicted on his thigh.