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After Jacob crossed the river Jordan, he sent messengers ahead of him to meet his brother Esau and mention that he had a lot of oxen and asses and flocks and servants and hint that he could smooth over any hard feelings Esau might still have over losing his blessing.

The messengers returned to him saying that Esau was coming out to meet him with four hundred men. This worried Jacob to no end. He divided his caravan into two halves, in case Esau smote one, the other might escape.

Jacob prayed a humble prayer to his God for deliverance, and then set aside a portion of his herd as a gift to Esau. Two hundred and twenty goats, two hundred and twenty sheep, thirty camels, fifty cattle, twenty asses, and ten foals, which he sent with his servants to deliver to Esau.

They left Jacob alone, and he ended up wrestling a nameless being all night.

Some rabbis suggest that he wrestled with Michael, or even Sammael, the angel of death. Surely it was not Yahweh himself, for why would he fear the coming of the dawn like a vampire or wrestle a mere mortal man to a draw?

Could it be that Jacob is not wrestling with God or an angel at all, but his own mortality? In his dark night of the soul, with deadly Laban behind him and deadly Esau before him, Jacob took command of his own fate with sheer dogged persistence, not letting go of his quest for “life, and life more abundantly” even in the face of crippling pain, symbolized by the breaking of his thigh. “I won’t let you go until I have your Blessing,” he insists. He is rewarded with a new name. Passing through this great trial, the old man Jacob Heelclutcher falls, while the new man Israel Godclutcher goes on.

Everyone comes up against Israel and his descendents ends up going away…permanently. You still see the Israelis around four thousand years later. You don’t see the Hittites and Amalekites and Nazis around anymore. The Palestinians and Iranians of today are just a passing fad.

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Strangers In Paradise