Summary: A wrestling commentator narrates the contest between Jacob and the angel. Setting: imagined professional wrestling match. No actors needed. No props. Just a narrator. Could be altered to include a play-by-play and color commentator. What the heck, you could even bring in wrestlers!
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 8min
Scripture: Genesis 32: 22-31
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And welcome to the All-Star Mesopotamian Wrestling Network. It’s a great night for wrestling, and boy have we got two top athletes for tonight’s match.
In this corner, weighing in at one hundred and eighty five pounds is the well-known son of Isaac, Jacob, descendent of the great Abraham and Sarah.
And his opponent is a curious assailant. His origins are unknown, as is his proper name and his wrestling record, but he is a formidable looking creature. In the darkness of the evening, it is hard to see too distinctly, but it almost appears as if he could sprout wings and fly.
This is a match to the finish. No holds barred. Winner take all. And the stakes are high indeed, especially for Jacob. Should Jacob win the event, he will be allowed to join his family and servants across the Jabbok River. Should he lose, well, let’s not even speculate on that.
I’m looking at Jacob son of Isaac and Rebekah and I must say he looks a bit worried. Anxious even. He looks like a man who has just seen death. Now that is something for a man like Jacob. He is not known to be afraid of anything.
His track record speaks for itself, especially outside the ring. Here is a man who has shown that he is willing to do anything whatsoever to get what he wants. And all of that cheating and lying is what has gotten him into this match tonight. His ghosts have come back to haunt him.
But enough of that right now. Let’s get on with the wrestling. I can see our opponents getting ready now. There goes the bell. And we’re off.
Say, that other fellow is very good. He looks like he could handle two of Jacob. He moves smoothly, effortlessly. Look, he just tripped Jacob over. But he’s not going for him. He’s letting him get back up. It’s like he’s toying with him.
Ladies and gentlemen, this match is starting off slowly. Let’s get back to ringside action in a moment. In the meantime, we’ll go over Jacob’s career. I think you’ll get an idea as to why he is such a formidable fellow to take on.
We have to go back several years, when Jacob was just still a young man. At the time, the birthright of his father Isaac was to go to Jacob’s brother Esau. But Jacob tricked the old man, who was nearly blind, and stole his brother’s birthright. As you can imagine, Esau was none too pleased.
In fact, so we’ve been told, Esau is on the other side of the river right now with a few hundred armed soldiers, waiting for Jacob to get across. Like I said, the ghosts have come back to haunt our hero.
And Esau is not the only one Jacob deceived. His father-in-law Laban and he traded deceits back and forth for more than twenty years. Neither one trusted the other, and with good reason. Laban got 14 years free work out of Jacob in exchange for his two daughters. And Jacob tricked Laban into giving him the best of his sheep herd. I’ll tell you, those two deserved each other.
Nothing would surprise me with Jacob. He’s probably gone into the wrestling ring with a foreign object in his trunks.
Let’s get back to wrestling for a while. It is, I must say, very intense. They’ve been going at it for a couple of hours now. In spite of their differences, these two are quite evenly matched. Jacob has brought his fearless disposition along with his years of cunning and guile. And his unknown opponent is awesome in size and power. There is no clear winner here, friends. This could go on all night.
I understand that there are some other factors at stake in the outcome of this match. Basically, he is on a quest to reconcile with his brother Esau. These two have not spoken a word or seen each other in years. Word has it that Jacob, fearful of his brother’s wrath, has sent on a peace envoy and a gift of several hundred goats, camels, cows and donkeys. Jacob has stayed behind, alone, for the match. I wonder what is going on in his mind as he wrestles with this angelic being.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is near daybreak, and both wrestlers are exhausted. This cannot go on much longer. Wait a moment. Something has happened here. The unnamed opponent has done something. He has dislocated Jacob’s hip. Jacob is clearly wounded. He is hobbling around. But look, he is holding onto his opponent. He is in pain, but he won’t let the other one go.
He is not giving up. He is asking his opponent for something. He is asking for a blessing. His opponent is asking his name. Jacob. Now the opponent is saying Jacob, your name will be changed. From now on his name will be called Israel. Let me remember now, what does that mean? All these Hebrew names have meaning, you know. Yes, Israel means the one who wrestles with God. For he has prevailed over humans and God.
I can’t believe this. Jacob has spent an entire night wrestling with God, or some manifestation of God. Now Jacob is talking to the opponent, asking him his name. Good luck on that one, Jacob! God just doesn’t give away the divine name.
In any event, Jacob has let the deity go. He is standing, sort of, on his wounded legs, lifting his head high and raising his arms. He is making a pronouncement. He has named this place Peniel which means the face of God.
It doesn’t look like this story will end any time soon.
But I have to say this. This was more than a wrestling match with big things at stake. This was a wrestling between God and a human being.
For whatever reason, God knew the struggle needed to happen.
I wonder if this is not perhaps a universal story. Perhaps we can identify with Jacob in some way. There in the night he wrestled with his hope and his fears, with his soul and with his God.
Struggle brought Jacob and God closer together.
Maybe there’s a bit of Israel in all of us. It is a new day, friends. Don’t be afraid to cross the river. And may God go with you.
(C) Jim Hatherly