Redemptive Withdrawal, The Cross, In Gen 32

Traditional theologians teach that it was God or, at least, a good Angel of God that assaulted Jacob that night on the bank of the Jabok. Gen 32:22-32.

I wholly disagree that the assaulter was God and here are my reasons why:

  1. God, for whom Jesus is made in God’s exact image (Heb1:3), is totally non-violent. He does not assault people. God turns the other cheek and absorbs all the blows as He did at Calvary (Matt 5:38-48);
  2. God’s only method of assaulting His enemies is indirectly through the cross or, as here in the Old Testament, the principle of the cross. God withdrew, and “Jacob was left alone” that night. This is another example of Redemptive Withdrawal. God left Jacob alone and permitted this angel to attack for a redemptive purpose, the breaking and remaking of Jacob from “Jacob” to “Israel.”
  3. Jacob “wrestled” with an “angel,” not God. Hos 12:4. The only time the word “wrestle” is used in the New Testament is in Eph 6:12: “For we WRESTLE not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” God is never violent, assaultive or destructive toward anyone. Anytime we are wrestling with someone who attacks us we are wrestling with a evil demonic power who lies behind all assaults. This is what it means to experience the cross: it is to wrestle with demons and fallen angels. This angel (Hos 12:4) was either Satan or one of his fallen angels. God withdrew and allowed Satan to attack Jacob when he was all alone at night. Night and darkness is the devil’s opportunity. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 Jn 1:5. When the devil and his evil powers attacked and killed Jesus at Calvary it was dark. Jesus was raised from the dead the following dawn. In the Bible therefore, the dawn is a symbol for resurrection. In Him is life and the life is the LIGHT of the world. John 1:4. In Him there is no darkness at all. 1 Jn 1:5.
  4. This assaultive angel who attacked Jacob was AFRAID of the dawn! This angel of the darkness exclaimed to Jacob, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” This fallen angel could not afford to stick around for the day to break. Satan is mortally afraid of the resurrection light and power of Christ.
  5. Jacob saw the face of the angel and thought he was seeing the face of God himself and so he named the place, “Penuel, for (he had) seen God face to face.” However, this was actually not God but Satan disguised as God. Masquerading as God, Paul wrote, is what Satan is inclined to and fully able to do. 2 Cor 11:13-15. Jesus says in John 1:18 that “no man (includes Jacob) hath seen God at any time!”
  6. The angel asked Jacob for his name and Jacob gave it to him. Jacob then asked the angel for his name and the angel refused to identify himself but rather scolded Jacob saying, “You must not ask my name!” The Torah Gen 32:29 Do you think our loving God would bar Jacob from asking His name?
  7. The Jews from then on would never again eat the sinew of the muscle “which shrank which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he (the angel) touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew which shrank.” This implies to me that the Jews forever more considered this part of the thigh to be unclean and therefore forbidden to eat from. Our human strength has to be made weak before God can make us strong in spirit. Power is perfected in weakness. 2 Cor 12:7-10. The shrinking of the thigh muscle signifies the action of the cross of Christ which makes us weak, a weakness we need before we can be made strong.
  8. Gen 32:31 records that Jacob then “PASSED OVER (an allusion in symbolic language to the principle of the cross, the Passover) Penuel” and the “SUN ROSE upon him (allusion in symbol to the Son’s resurrection), and he HALTED upon his thigh (allusion symbolically to the brokenness and weakness that comes to the believer through the working of the cross in our lives). This symbolic language proves this whole Genesis 32 scenario is a prefigurement of our experience of the cross.
  9. Jacob was for a time prevailing over this angel as they wrestled. How does anyone ever at anytime, even for a minute, prevail, if he is wrestling with God Almighty? Then, when the angel got deathly afraid of the dawn, in desperation, struck a blow to Jacob’s hip joint that dislocated Jacob’s thigh from his hip finally winning the fight. But Jacob kept CLINGING to this devil until the angel blessed him. I see this as symbolic of our need to cling to and embrace the cross and await the resurrection blessing soon to follow. “I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown” as the song The Old Rugged Cross goes.
  10. The only part of the story that might arguably militate against my above interpretation could be that Jacob did not let go of but HUNG on to the evil angel until the angel “blessed him.” Gen 32:26. The question might be “how Can Satan bless Jacob? This blessing of Jacob signifies that we are blessed by the very cross which Satan puts us on while intending our destruction. But Satan self-destructs when he attacks us while hoping to destroy us. Heb 2:14; Col 2:15; 1 Cor 2:6-8; Ps 5:10; 7:15-16; 9:15-16; 10:2. Satan intends to break us and destroy us. God uses Satan’s breaking action against us to bless us and defeat Satan. Satan blessed Jacob by changing his name to Israel. A new name signifies transformation thru the cross experience from the old man nature into the new man nature. Eph 4:22-24. This only happens thru the brokenness of the cross which Satan is always the cause of. Satan is his own worst enemy. He intends cursing. God turns his cursing actions against us into our blessing!
  11. Verse 28 is translated in The Torah as follows: “for you have striven with BEINGS DIVINE and human, and have prevailed.” Satan is a divine being originally created by God. Verse 30 is translated in The Torah as “And Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: meaning, ‘I have seen a DIVINE BEING face to face yet my life have been served.’ ” Again, Satan is a divine being.

God never assaults, attacks, destroys or kills anyone. Satan does all that. Heb 2:14; John 10:10; 8:44; 1 Cor 15:26. God turns Satan’s cursing into our blessing thru the principle of the Cross of Christ!

Travis Bryan III

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