Questions on Wresting with God, Laban’s Idols, and Samson’s First Wife

I have found a few questions dropped into the box recently, so I have taken this week to give a response to these inquiries.

What does Jacob wrestling with the Lord symbolize and why doesn’t God win?

The account of Jacob wrestling with God is found in Genesis 32, where Jacob is soon to meet up with Esau, his brother whom he had taken the birthright from. Esau had once intended to kill Jacob and Jacob had fled his home to save himself. As the two brothers are about to reunite, Jacob is expecting Esau to still be angry. He even learns that Esau is traveling to meet him with 400 men (v. 6), and Jacob “was greatly afraid and distressed” (v.7). The night before Esau arrived, a man jumps on Jacob in the dark. An assassin from Esau, Jacob must’ve thought! Jacob fights back, battling to preserve his life and his family. As the fight drew long, the man reaches to touch Jacob’s side and this muscle shrinks. The limping Jacob now realizes that he is not dealing with a human being, but God. Fascinatingly, Jacob doesn’t let up on the “man”, and will not let him go until he blesses him. This is when God blesses Jacob with a new name, Israel. This is certainly a very significant event that needs some additional explanation in order to answer the question above.

On the night that Jacob wrestled with God, he was overwhelmed with fear and stress concerning the upcoming meeting with Esau, but he should not have been. In Genesis 32:1-2, before Jacob sent messengers to Esau to set up a meeting, the angels of God met Jacob along the way. Jacob rightly concluded “This is God’s camp” and he called this place “Mahanaim” (two camps). God had so powerfully demonstrated to Jacob that wherever Jacob camps, God camps beside him. God was with him, and I expect that this demonstration emboldened Jacob to initiate the meeting with Esau. But once Jacob heard that Esau was coming with 400 men, Jacob fell into a place of fear and anxiety. We can’t be too hard on Jacob because I expect that we have all found ourselves hurled into stress when we should have been trusting God. The apostles are also good examples of this, for they also fell into fear when trouble or tumult struck. We should grow in faith to ensure that we can stand fast whenever difficulty strikes. Now, Jacob should’ve had no fear coming into this situation with Esau, because God had allowed him to see that the angels of the Lord were camped out beside Jacob. But this was not enough for him to quiet his anxieties. So God will step in and demonstrate again to Jacob that he has nothing to fear. In the appearance of a man, God wrestles with Jacob.

The finality of the battle between God and Jacob is in the blessing granted to Jacob. Jacob sought a blessing from his assailant, but Jacob would first be asked to confess his own name. The Lord said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” Jacob, the name means supplanter, a cheater, one who wrongfully seizes the place of another. This will no longer be the confession of Jacob, for God now blesses him with a new name with a positive and powerful message. Israel, the name means “God Fights”. Jacob is to recognize that God is the one who fights for him. Jacob has great endurance as well, as God said you have wrestled with God and men and have prevailed. Not that Jacob could truly prevail against God, but that God let him win, he allowed Jacob to prevail against Him, demonstrating that God will allow Jacob to prevail over all peoples, including his brother Esau. This is what the event symbolized, and this is why God let Jacob win. It was a hard night of instruction for Jacob, but the sun arose with Jacob as a new man and a new identity, Israel, he whom God will always fight. Because, by fighting for Jacob, God is fighting for the salvation of all men through the Man Jesus who would come from Jacob, as was promised by God first to Jacobs’s grandfather, Abraham.

Why did Rachel take her father’s idols?

This question is concerning the event of Genesis 31. Laban’s family worshipped idols, and in his house, he had placed small images of these false gods. To an idolater, these household idols would be of supreme importance, of more value than any other possession, not only because of what they were made of but because they were vessels of the gods they served. Rachel was raised as an idol worshipper, and it was possibly still important to her to have the household idols when she moved away. As much of a “supplanter” as Jacob was, his father-in-law, Laban, was twice as bad, and this deceptive characteristic can also be seen in his daughters, Jacob’s wives. Rachel stole from her father. Then, when the theft was discovered by Laban, instead of giving up, Rachel continued to lie and deceive in order to keep the idols. I appreciate that the questioner is wanting to dig deeper into this matter, but the answer may be as simple as Rachel was not a good person, and her decision to steal wasn’t necessarily based on anything other than her own selfishness. With that said, more specifically, her selfish act was likely based off one of two things (or a little of both): 1. She wanted to continue to worship these idols, or 2. She took the idols as a partial restitution of funds that she felt were due to her from her father. For Rachel and Leah did accuse their father that he “completely consumed our money” (Genesis 31:15).

What happened to Samson’s first wife?

Judges 14 and 15 tell of Samson’s first wife and her death. Samson had fallen for a woman in Timnah of the Philistines. Now the Philistines were great oppressors of the Israelites at the time. When Samson told his parents of his intent to marry the girl, they advised against it. This didn’t stop Samson, for God was using Samson’s desire for the girl as a means to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4). To shorten the account, after they were married, the girl’s father had her marry another. This spun Samson into a rage, and he burned all the fields of grain, vineyards, and groves of the Philistines. In retaliation, the Philistines burned the girl (Samson’s first wife) and her father to death. Therefore, Samson took revenge on the Philistines, killing a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone as his weapon.

Article by Tanner Campbell