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Along the Way
Jealousy, lies and a wrestling match
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Fighting for an inheritance threatens the relationship between twin brothers and causes one to set off on a strange adventure.

It always bothered Jacob that he was considered the younger brother. He was just as old as his brother Esau. They were fraternal twins! It just happened that his brother came out first the day they were born. Yet, that bit of luck or circumstance seemed to haunt his life from that day onward. His brother was more rough and tumble than Jacob and attracted the attention of his father more easily. When Isaac, their father, went hunting or went into town, it was usually Esau who went with him. Jacob stayed home with their mother, Rebecca. He was a good deal brighter than his brother, with a good head for numbers and a business sense that his father would have been wise to take greater advantage of. It was Esau however who was given most of the responsibility for the family flocks and land holdings. He provided a faithful yeomans service but did little to improve the size or quality of his fathers property.

One day Jacob was busy reading a Egyptian parchment when he realized that he was hungry. None of the servants were around the house, as Esau had taken everyone out to help shear the sheep. Jacob had not been invited, as Esau didnt feel that he would be much help. Frankly, the boys didnt get along well together. So, Jacob put some mutton and vegetables in a pot and fixed himself a delicious stew. He ate most of the stew, leaving only a bowls worth that he was too full to finish. Just as he was getting up from the table Esau burst into the house and threw himself into a chair. In a loud voice he proclaimed both his exhaustion from a days hard work and the fact that he was famished. Spying the left over stew he asked if he could have it.

Jacob said "no".

Esau was perturbed at his brothers off-handed response and complained. "What kind of brother are you? Ive been working hard all day and you cant share a little stew with me?"

Jacob responded in a steady voice. "What kind of brother are you? You asked every able-bodied man within miles to help you shear the sheep, except for me, your brother. What am I? Chopped Liver?"

"Im sorry. Its just that you are so absorbed in reading, keeping the accounts and such that I figured you wouldnt want to go."

"You figured that you didnt want me around. I may not be as hairy or well muscled as you but I am every bit as much a man as you are and I resent being treated as something less just because you were born five minutes ahead of me!"

Esau was getting frustrated. "Jacob, we are twin brothers. We share the same birthday and the same womb. I do not look down to you. Your resentment of me because I was born first is the cause of your problems. It is all in your head. It means nothing to me whether I was born first or you. All this arguing is foolish!"

"You say that easily", Jacob shot back, "because you were born first and because of that accident of nature you have the birth right."

Esau listened to Jacobs speech patiently. He had heard it all before...many times! Yet, he listened quietly because he didnt want to get his brother yelling any louder than he was already.

When Jacob finished, Esau smiled shyly and asked, "So, can I have the stew? I really am very hungry."

Jacob was about to repeat his first response but then he stopped, thought for a moment and then smiled back at his brother. "Tell you what I am going to do. Ill let you have this stew. Ill even fix you another pot. All I want from you is something of minor importance between twin brothers. You said so yourself. All I want is your birth right."

It was the custom of the people to give the oldest son the greater part of the family holdings as an inheritance. It was the oldest son who had the responsibility of continuing the family name and property to the next generation. He received the majority of the property to help insure that he would be able to carry forward the family in good stead. The younger siblings received an inheritance that was the equivalent of a nest egg to get them started on their own. Thus, even though the boys were twins because Esau was born first he received the birthright and Jacob did not.

Esau was taken aback by the offer. He had always assumed that he would receive the birthright and carry on the responsibility of maintaining the family wealth and property. Frankly, it was a burden he did not relish. He was a hunter and an adventurer at heart. He wanted to see strange sights and visit far away cities. After all, he and Jacob were twins. His brother had as much claim on the birth right as he did. It wasnt like he was really an older brother. It was only chance that he had come out first, it could have been Jacob.

"I agree," responded Esau. "I give you my birth right ... not just because I am hungry but to show you that my love for you is greater than any claim I may have on our fathers property."

Jacob took the remains of the hot stew and scooped it into a bowel for Esau. Esau ate.

Memory of the stew pot agreement grew dim in Esaus mind in the years that followed. He was a busy man. Increasingly he replaced Isaac when it was necessary for the neighboring chieftains to band together their clans for mutual defense against some adventurous tyrant. He enjoyed these military forays, as he did hunting the wild animals in the nearby badlands. Jacob went along on the forays to provide manpower but had no real interest in such adventures. He preferred to stay with the flocks and manage them, as he had been given that responsibility. He had a talent for the work and the flocks flourished under his direction.

Not too many years after the stew pot incident Esau met Elon, a warrior of the Hittites on one of his adventures. Elon was not only a warrior but a hunter and adventurer that Esau admired. While Isaac fought and hunted because it was a necessity, Elon relished war and hunting. He was very good at both. Esau and Elon became fast friends. After a hunting expedition they had planned for many months, Elon invited Esau to stay at his home so they could visit for a while longer. Esau agreed. While visiting Elon, his friend introduced Esau to his two daughters, Judith and Basemath. It was love at first sight. Esau was hopelessly in love with Judith, though Judith was slow to warm to his attention. However, Basemath fell hopelessly in love with Esau! The difficulties of the three trying to sort out their emotions and relationships are worthy of a Shakespearean comedy. However, to make a long story short, in the end Esau came home to Isaac and Rebecca with two wives in tow. While it was culturally acceptable, Rebecca was not terribly pleased by Esaus decision to marry both girls. Jacob merely stayed in the background laughing as Esau tried to deal with his mother and two wives.

Rebecca was a matchmaker at heart. Part of her displeasure with Esau was that by finding his own wives she had been denied the pleasure of working out the arrangements. With Esau no longer a target for her ministrations as Yenta, Jacob began to hear remarks that he was a grown man already and should be thinking about taking a wife. Frankly, he enjoyed the relative lack of responsibility that came with bachelorhood. He was in no rush to join his brother among the ranks of the married and responsible.

Isaacs health began to decline several years earlier, not long after Esaus marriage. He grew weak and was confined to bed. His eyesight blurred terribly, so that he could see vague forms but little else. Having lead an active life, this confinement was very difficult for Isaac. Jacob once heard his father say that having been spared the altar of sacrifice as a youth, he was now being offered upon it each day. The boys felt sorry for their father.

Not many months passed before it was clear that the end was near. Isaac could feel life slipping away. He called for Esau and when his son appeared he instructed the young man to go hunting and prepare a fine meal for his father. That meal would quite likely be his last. Then once he had eaten he would give his blessing to Esau. That blessing carried with it Isaacs property and titles. The young man embraced his father and went off to do this last service of love.

Rebecca loved both of her sons. However, she knew them both very well. She judged Jacob to the more gifted administrator of the two. He had a keen mind, paid attention to detail, and was a keen negotiator from his childhood. He would increase the familys holding greatly if he were given responsibility for them. Esau was the hunter and adventurer. He had little taste for cattle or inventories. He wanted the forest and open road. He wanted adventure. Rebecca realized that Isaacs plan to give Esau the right of the first born was wrong and lacking vision, even as her husband was physically blind.

So, she decided to intervene before it was too late. She called for Jacob after preparing a meal of game meat and told him to present the meal to Isaac and claim the blessing. Jacob realized what his mother was doing and went along with it. Even though his conscience stung, he knew that he was better suited than his brother to take over the family fortune. He disliked lying to his father, pretending to be Esau, speaking with a voice that wasnt his. Yet, he knew that it was necessary. Jacob received the blessing.

He was not far away when Esau returned from hunting and went in to his father with the meal that he had prepared. Jacob heard his fathers surprise at realizing that Jacob had tricked him and received the blessing that had been meant for Esau. Jacob heard the cry of sorrow from his brother when he realized that he could not receive the blessing that Isaac had wanted to bestow on him. A feeling of shame and guilt overwhelmed Jacob. He could never face his father or brother again for what he had done was cruel and wrong beyond forgiveness! If Esau were to turn on him and beat him senseless, it would be justice. Yet, he feared that Esau would feel shame at harming his brother and would be burdened by yet more guilt that was truly the responsibility of Jacob, as his deceit was the cause of the anger and all of its consequences. Jacob turned and without even taking a coat he ran from the encampment and headed off into the mountains. He would leave his family in peace. He would find redemption from the burden of sin that he brought upon himself through his deceit.

When darkness fell Jacob was in the hill country. He found a sheltered spot, built a fire as best he could to keep away predators, and fell into an exhausted sleep. As he spept he had a dream. A stairway appeared before him. It shone with a strange brilliance, like that of gold only more subtle. Upon the stairway he saw strong, powerful beings walking up and down, as if coming to the Earth or returning to the heavens. These beings were beautiful beyond words. Then as Jacob tried to understand who or what these beings were, he heard a voice fill his mind and drive out any thoughts but the words of the voice.

"I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your grandfather, and the God of Isaac, your father. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants shall be like the specks of dust on the ground; you shall spread t the west and east, to the north and the south, and all the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants. Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you."

As the voice stopped speaking, the stairway faded into the mist. Jacob sat up with a start. "What a dream! This must be a sacred place and I never realized it!" In the morning he built a small altar of rocks as a memorial to the dream and as a warning to others of the sacred nature of the place. If the dream was true then the God of his ancestors was blessing him and informing him that the promised destiny of the family would be furthered through him. Even though he obtained his fathers blessing through deceit, God was honoring the blessing. Jacob had trouble understanding why God would do such a thing when Jacob was not worthy of the blessing. He began to question the dream. Perhaps it was the product of his exhaustion and troubled state of mind? Perhaps it was an illusion of Satan? So, he thought to himself that if God keeps his word and blesses him on the journey ahead, protecting him and seeing that he has what he needs, then he would know that the dream was real. Feeling that he was testing God instead of trusting, he added a promise that he would give back to God a tenth of all that God might give to him.

Jacob continued to travel east. Eventually he came to an oasis with a well at which a number of shepherds were watering their flocks. He asked where the place was and learned that it was Haran. He was pleasantly surprised, as he knew that his grandfather had lived in Haran and that relatives lived there. His grandfathers brother, Nahor, had two sons, Lot and Laban. Lot had traveled to Cannan with Abraham but Laban had stayed in Haran with his mothers family. He was also related to Rebecca, as she had come from the Haran branch of the clan when she was brought by Abrahams servant to marry Isaac. Laban was now a "white beard", more than a decade older than Isaac but still in good health. He was overjoyed at the news and asked how he might find Laban, his kinsman. The shepherds pointed to a beautiful young woman who was headed toward the well with a flock of sheep and told him to ask her. She was Rachel, a daughter of Laban. His heart missed a beat when he saw the girl. She was beautiful. The angels in his dream were mere shadows in comparison to her. Almost in a trance, he walked over to her. He removed a large stone that was covering the well, thus allowing her to water her fathers sheep, and stole a kiss. Before she could react, tears of joy and relief burst from Jacobs eyes and he explained to her his relationship to the family. She ran to get her father, who warmly greeted the young man and brought him to the family house.

That evening Laban sat with Jacob for a long time as the young man poured out his heart recounting the events that had recently transpired. The older man listened carefully then made Jacob an offer. He was invited to remain with Laban and help him care for his flocks. Jacob agreed to do this at least until he could think things through and figure his next move. Jacob was gifted with the animals and with the business end of things as well. A month later Laban expressed his delight in Jacobs skill and encouraged him to ask for any wages he desired. He thought for a moment and then made an offer to Laban. "I will work for you seven years. In return, you will give me your daughter, Rachel as my wife." Laban smiled and agreed to the request.

There is often a certain justice in the way events work themselves out. Jacob had deceived his father, hurting both Isaac and Esau. God appeared not to hold the deceit against Jacob, as he made the young man a series of promises right after the deceit had occurred. The covenant would be carried out through him and his descendants. However, poetic justice is not always as forgiving as God.

So, it happened that when the seven years were up Jacob went to laban to claim Rachel as his bride. The old man had a great wedding feast and sent Jacob to the marital chambers with his bride. In the morning when he awoke he found Leah in his arms. He was not happy. Leah was Rachels older sister. She was a nice person but Jacob loved Rachel. She was the one he had pined for throughout the seven years he had labored for Laban, not Leah. Early that morning he was pounding on Labans door. "We had a deal! Rachael was the daughter that we had agreed upon. Why did you trick me?" Laban looked oh so sorry and explained, "It is the custom in this country not to allow the younger daughter to marry before the older. I can not violate custom. However, I have a deal for you. Finish out the week of celebration and take Leah as your wife. I will then give you Rachel as well, of course you must agree to stay and work for me another seven years." Jacob loved Rachel and so agreed to the proposition. A week later, after the wedding celebration for Leah was over, there was a second celebration for Rachel. In one week Jacob went from being a bachelor to having two wives.

While it was allowed by the culture in which Jacob lived, having two wives brought more than its share of headaches. It seems that while Jacob was head over heals in love with Rachel, their marriage was slow in producing any children. Leah, on the other hand, whom Jacob thought of more as a friend than a lover, was producing one child after the next. Rachel was jealous of her sister and angry at her husband. She eventually decided to follow the example of Jacobs grandmother, Sarah, and sent her slave girl to be a concubine to Jacob. Since the slave girl was the property of Rachel, any children produced by her could be considered the child of Rachel. It seems that surrogate parenting has been around for quite a long time! Of course, when Leah hit a dry spell and saw that Rachel was using a slave girl to produce children for Jacob she got angry and decided to do the same thing herself. This contest went on for a number of years until the sisters finally reconciled themselves. At that point both Leah and Rachel found themselves pregnant. In the end Jacob found himself the proud father of twelve sons.

Jacob was a workaholic long before the concept was ever invented. It earned Laban a great deal of wealth and Jacob an enviable reputation among the herders in the region. He was always working some angle. Not only had Jacob done well by his relative but also he had done fairly well for himself. His marriage to both Leah and Rachel brought him large dowries from a wealthy man. He had livestock, slaves, equipment of his own and full use of any of Labans property.

However, after fourteen years working for Laban and multiplying the mans holdings, he wanted to do the same for himself. He figured that if he could build up holdings of roughly the same size as his father had owned, his brother would not perceive him as a rival or usurper and he might be able to return to Canaan. He had no intention on making any claim to the property that Esau probably controlled at that point, even if his brother had sold Jacob his birthright. Jacob intended to be especially quiet about cheating Esau out of Isaacs blessing. He did want to return home though, even if only to show the family that he made something of himself. That goal demanded a good deal more financing than he had yet obtained.

Laban was in a generous mood one evening, after Jacob had negotiated a very lucrative deal for the man. He invited the younger man to ask anything within reason as his reward. Jacob noted that while he enjoyed the benefit of Labans vast resources he had few things of his own. This was frustrating, as he was responsible for Labans two daughters and twelve of his grandchildren. Jacob suggested a simple arrangement with Laban. He would take the culls of Labans flock, those sheep and goats who were imperfect because of mixed coats or other obvious failings. These rejects he would take separately and begin his own herds. Laban would be free to check Jacobs flocks to ensure that he was not taking any other animals than those to which Laban had agreed. The older man saw no harm in this arrangement and agreed.

While the science of genetics was still many years in the future, Jacob had been responsible for Labans herds for fourteen years and had a good sense of the physical characteristics of the herds and the likely distribution of these characteristics in each new generation. Thus, Jacob knew that Laban had unknowingly promised him a healthy portion of his flocks. When Jacob claimed his animals Labans sons were concerned. However, Laban restrained them, honoring his agreement with Jacob. Labans flocks did well and showed many healthy and perfect animals. Jacobs flocks did well and grew at a healthy rate. While their coats may have been imperfect, they were fine meat animals, healthy grazers and prolific in their offspring. Indeed, within a few years of the agreement Jacobs flocks were rivaling Labans. A few more years still and Jacobs flocks were larger than Labans.

The sons of Laban had grown up with Jacob as part of the family. He was like a brother or uncle to them and had been a good friend. He was the one they went to for advice or for help when they were in trouble. However, envy and concern over money can do strange things to people. They began to see only Jacobs success with his flocks. They grew blind to the good that Jacob had done for their fathers flocks. They failed to remember that Laban now owned many more sheep and goats than he had when Jacob first appeared at the well. Their envy and desire for riches clouded their minds and they constantly complained to their father.

Even though Laban lied to Jacob and changed his wages at least ten times over the years, each time attempting to cheat Jacob out of what he had earned, Jacob had suffered this abuse silently. Laban had no reason to distrust Jacob.

However, his sons hounded him. Laban began to think that if he cheated Jacob perhaps his son-in-law was finally paying him back. After all, Jacob was doing unusually well with the herds that Laban agreed Jacob could claim as his wages. Jacob sensed Labans change of mood. He knew that the time to leave was drawing near. Speaking with Leah and Rachel about his concerns, they agreed that it was time to leave. The three of them wanted to avoid a confrontation with Laban. So, they gathered their possessions and left quietly, sending their flocks ahead of them.

Sometimes young people have a very complicated understanding of relatively simple situations. Like Jacob, they imagine that a decision like leaving home requires a great deal of drama and some secrecy. The simple reality is that just talking the matter over with their parents may have produced parental support and blessings for their attempts at spreading their wings.

About three days out Jacob was surprised to find Laban bearing down on their small caravan. However, instead of wrecking havoc on his son-in-law, Laban was more concerned that Jacob had gone without as much as a good-bye kiss or hug for his daughters and grandsons. Laban understood that Jacob wanted to see his family and wished him well. They agreed that Jacob and his descendents would never take up arms against Laban and his descendents. Jacob also promised to treat well Labans daughters and to respect and protect his wives. After the tearful farewells Laban headed back to his place and Jacob moved on toward Canaan and the biggest challenge yet; facing his brother Esau.

After traveling for several weeks the caravan slowly reached Edom and set up camp. Esau was no more than two days traveling. Jacob was more anxious than ever. He wanted to reconcile with Esau. Yet, he feared that his brother was still angry with him and would seek vengeance.

Once they encamped, Jacob sent two messengers ahead to visit Esau and tell him of his approach. He also instructed them to share the tale of what had passed while Jacob lived with Laban. The messengers were gone just over one day when they returned informing Jacob that they encountered Esau on the road. He had heard of Jacobs coming and was coming to give him a fitting welcome. Jacob saw hope in the messengers words. His heart sank when they added that four hundred men accompanied Esau! Was he coming to greet Jacob with an army?

Ever the schemer, Jacob divided the caravan into two groups. In one group he half of his livestock and property. This group he instructed to stay at the camp until further ordered. The second group he divided into four smaller groups, which were comprised of sheep, goats, oxen, and other supplies. He sent each of the groups off, down the road toward Esau and his men, several hours apart. The servants who went with each group were instructed to inform Esau that the livestock and supplies were gifts from Jacob for his brother. Jacob figured that after receiving Jacobs gifts Esaus heart would be sufficiently softened to forgive his brother. However, he wanted to take no chances. His family would come with him to meet their kinsman. Jacob and his family followed the gifts that he sent ahead. When they reached the ford in the river at Jabook, had his family bed down for the night. He crossed the river. He wanted to be by himself that night. They would face Esau the next day.

Worry kept sleep from the eyes of Jacob. How would his brother receive him? He had treated his brother wrongfully so many times when they were boys. Had it been Esau who had been as conniving and dishonest as Jacob, he would certainly be seeking his brothers blood at this very moment. As his thoughts wandered, he heard a twig snap and quickly turned to see a shadow move just beyond the fire he had built for warmth.

"Go back to the other side of the river. I need to be alone." He called out thinking that it was one of his children or servants.

A deep male voice responded, "I am not one of your children or servants. Though you wish to be alone, may I have permission to join you?"

Hospitality was more than a courtesy in the Middle East. It was a rule of survival. A kindly response to a stranger could mean the difference between life and death. In any case, wasnt it part of the family heritage that his grandfather had entertained angels?

"Come, join me by the fire. I have no food with me but if I did I would gladly share it with you."

A large man with a beard and dark hair drew near to the fire. He appeared friendly but was clearly a man of powerful build. Jacob didnt know what to make of him but was willing to be hospitable.

The Stranger asked, "Friend, what brings you out here in the wilderness?"

"I must meet my brother tomorrow. I fear that encounter."

"Do not brothers greet each other with hugs and the best of feelings? What is to fear in that?"

Jacob responded, "I fear that our meeting will not be marked by hugs and smiles but by blows and anger. He has a host of four hundred men with him."

"There must be some other explanation. Brothers to not take up arms against brothers. It is unnatural."

"It may be unnatural," responded Jacob, "but I still fear that he will not forgive me."

The Stranger had a quizzical expression on his face and then asked, "What is it that he needs to forgive?"

Jacob hesitated a moment, as if gathering his courage, and then proceed to explain. "I abused my brother not once but repeatedly. The first time I tricked him out of his birthright, getting him to sell it to me for a bowl of potage. The second time I tricked my father into thinking I was my brother. Once he thought I was Esau, my brother, I got him to give me his blessing. I cheated my brother of his inheritance not once but twice.

"When I was younger I thought only of wealth and worldly success. My greed brought me to hurt my father and my brother. Now that my parents are no longer among us, I grieve for their loss. I grieve that neither my mother nor father was able to kiss any of their grandchildren by my line. I grieve that I lost twenty years of friendship, shared joys, and common adventures with my brother, Esau. I grieve that my children do not know their paternal cousins. I am a good schemer, one of the best. What has it gotten me? A few sheep perhaps? The cost has been bitter; my father, mother, brother and his family."

"So how do you intend to make right what you have destroyed?" asked the Stranger.

"I am here, defenseless. If we can not be reconciled than he is free to do what he wishes with me. I shall ask him only to show mercy on my family."

"How will your blood make anything right?"

"I am the legitimate owner of our fathers estate. When I am gone, then he is the legitimate owner. I will not live, if I must live as my brothers enemy."

"What happened when your father died?"

"I am not sure what you mean."

"When your father died, who inherited his property?"

"I did." Responded Jacob.

"Then where is your inheritance? Show it to me."

"I never claimed it. It remains in Esaus hands. Though I would never claim it now. I recognize it as his in justice."

"Esau knows this Jacob. He is your brother and wishes you no harm. If he feared any attempt to claim the property he has managed with such success for the past twenty years, you would not have come this far on your journey. Certainly, if he had doubts, your lavish gifts should put them to rest. I have a feeling that right now his only concern is trying to find grazing and shepherds for all the livestock you sent him earlier today."

"I pray that you are right." mumbled Jacob.

"Your prayers are answered, for I am right." smiled the Stranger. "To whom do you pray?" he added.

"I pray to the God of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac."

"Did not the God if Abraham and Isaac promise you blessings, as many descendents as there are grains of sand on the shore, and his protection?"

"Who are you?" Jacob asked, shocked by the Strangers knowledge of Jacobs dream twenty years before. "Why do you ask?"

"He asked you a question that night. He asked if you would enter the covenant of your fathers with him. What was your response?"

Ashamed, Jacob did not raise his eyes to the Stranger. "I said that if he kept his promises to me then I would be his. How little faith I had, even after such a wondrous vision! But then I was only a callow youth."

"Has God not kept his promises to you? Has he not only kept them but fulfilled them beyond your wildest dream?"

"Yes, he has...and more."

"So now, what is your response to the God of Abraham and Isaac?"

"I ask him to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!"

The Stranger looked intently at Jacob for a moment and then said, "It shall go well with you. The Lord will guide you and strengthen you. He will lead you by paths unknown to places you would rather not go. Yet, in the end, all will be well. Indeed, all manner of things shall be well."

Again, Jacob asked, "Who are you?"

"A friend to your family. Abraham and I often spoke. Your father, Isaac, Abraham, and I once enjoyed a barbecue on Mt. Moriah. I would be your friend."

Jacob fell to his knees, for he realized who spoke with him and was afraid. Yet, he was not so afraid that he could not ask the stranger for a favor. The Stranger laughed and reached out a hand to pull Jacob to his feet.

"So, you want a favor from me, do you? You may have it if you take it from me. Pin my back to the ground and you shall receive my blessing!"

It may seem wierd for the Mysterious Stranger to pull Jacob into a wrestling match in the wee hours of the morning. Yet, dont forget that while Gods grace surrounds us and holds us up, sometimes we must struggle for it, if we are to appreciate it.

Not only did Jacob and the Mysterious Stranger have a wonderful time, straining and struggling to pin each other but Jacob seemed to grow in one insight after another as the early morning hours wore on. At one point he realized the sad state of his family because only business had previously occupied his interest. His sons have been a disappointment; gambling, drinking, frequenting prostitutes. What guidance had he given them that they could be anything else? At another point he realized the infidelity of his household. He had ignored the God of his fathers for the most part since the dream so many years ago. Even Rachel, his wife, kept stone and wooden idols among her possessions. As the night wore on Jacob realized one failing and fault after another, as the stranger almost had him pinned several times under the weight of his guilt and shame. Yet, each time he sought forgiveness of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each time the burden vanished and Jacob was able to move. Just as the first light of dawn was beginning to color the morning sky, Jacob tripped the Stranger with a move he had not used earlier that evening and sent him to his back. Immediately, Jacob was on him, pinning him to the ground. Jacob laughed with triumph and then winced with pain. It was only then that he noticed that some time earlier in the match his hip had been hurt.

He slid from the Stranger and asked, "I have pinned you. What favor do you have for me?"

"So you have. It was a good match. Know that Jacob is no more. You are Israel, He who struggles with God. Because you have been strong in your struggles with me, you shall prevail among the people."

"Who are you?"

"Why is my name so important to you? You shall have my blessing instead." With that the Stranger placed his hands on Jacobs head, as Isaac had done years earlier, and gave Israel a blessing that was truly his. With that, Israel slept.

As you might guess, in the morning Israel awoke to find his brother Esau standing over him. The hand he stretched forth toward Israel was one of help and support. Instead of blows, there were hugs, tears, and such joy as neither brother had experienced in twenty years. They discovered that there was more than enough room in Canaan for the both of them. The sons of Isaac were reconciled that day.

Funny thing! Israel never lost the limp that he got wrestling with the Mysterious Stranger. In the years that followed he figured that anyone who wrestled with God was changed by the experienced. The limp was his reminder.

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.