The God-Mastered Man

May 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Posted in Biblical Violence, Genesis | 16 Comments
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God has a special relationship with the people and nation of Israel. There is no denying the importance of this relationship in the pages of Scripture and in God’s plans for the people of the world. However, not everyone agrees on the meaning of the name “Israel.” Some believe it means “struggler” or “wrestler with God.” Others believe it means “one with whom God strives” or “one ruled by God.”

We know from Genesis 32 that it is the name God gave to Jacob after he wrestled with the Lord. First, the Lord asked Jacob what his name was. Not because God didn’t know – God is omniscient! But because He was making a point. The name “Jacob” meant “heel grabber” or “supplanter,” with the connotation of one who struggles through trickery. Jacob had spent most of his life “wrestling:” wrestling with his brother, his father, his employer, even his wives.

Now Jacob was being taught a lesson about the reward of struggling to know God and to receive His blessings, and at the same time, the futility of struggling against God’s will. This is why the best translation of the name “Israel” might be “the God-mastered man.” A man who desperately wants more of God’s blessings, and has been broken by God, can truly be used by God to change the world.

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Genesis 32:26-28

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  1. […] violence, and that there are times when we should desire the abiding presence of God on our lives so desperately that we become intensely serious about seeking His will and the filling of His […]

  2. Deep end, Thanks for your narration of the name of Jacob and if I am to agree with you Jacob indeed wrestled with most of those people he came across even his own kids so I do agree with you. That is very wonderful.

    Now what about Esau what can we say about these two two.
    Was God fair to allow Jacob go away with ownership of first born and blessings? What about the two wives he had was it worth for him to strive for the second wife?

    Why was God always behind him other than Esau whom we hear was totally different from him in character?

    Is Esau not abraham’s seed? If yes why is that the bible took him as a gentile?

    Once gain thanks for your explaination.

  3. Charles: Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments and questions.

    I will not pretend to understand all of God’s ways in His dealings with Esau, but I can tell you that any question that starts off with “Was God fair..?” is a question that has been answered clearly and emphatically in the Bible. He is the Judge of all the earth, and He shall always do “RIGHT,” whether it meets our finite-minded standards of fairness, or not. See Genesis 18:25, Isaiah 27:7, Job 34:10-11, Romans 3:5-6.

    If you study the lives of Jacob and Esau, we find that the Bible has much more to say about Jacob. And his life is not always easy. In fact, he is often under God’s hand of loving chastisement. When Esau disappears from the pages of Genesis for a few chapters and then reappears, he seems to have been blessed with material wealth, influence, and power. I believe that this shows, not God’s blessing, but God’s judgment, on Esau. God loved Jacob. Therefore, He chastened him often and kept him close to Himself. God hated Esau. Therefore, he let him have his own way. This may be God’s greatest judgment against man this side of eternity: to let him have his own way.

    I am not sure what you mean when you say “the Bible took him as a gentile.” It is true that he intermarried with Gentiles. This is one of the ways that God tells us the condition of his heart. “And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.” (Genesis 28:8-9) He married them to spite his father, and his father’s God. Plus, the seed of Abraham, his true “heirs,” are those who are justified by faith, not those who are only related by blood. (See Romans Chapter 4)

  4. […] Bible records Jacob walking with a limp from his wrestling encounter with the Lord or the Angel of the Lord, but if he reacted that way with Leah, he might have wound […]

  5. […] Chapter 46 Jacob moves his family to Egypt, but first he built an altar and worshiped. And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God […]

  6. […] Method Lord, Leader, and Ladder Shove at First Sight The Name Game Choosing the Right Watering Hole The God-Mastered Man The Dangers of Fatherhood The Son of Suffering and Glory The Best Representative of a Generation […]

  7. […] descendants of Jacob were chosen by God to be the people through whom He would bless the entire world. The descendants […]

  8. […] with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob […]

  9. […] know that when God “breaks” His children he will rebuild us and use us again. Jacob is a good example of this. He was broken by God and then re-used. His brother, Esau, was never […]

  10. […] Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, and Jacob’s son, Joseph, had been providentially moved into authority in Egypt. It was there that the children of Israel began to prosper and multiply, because God was keeping His promise. […]

  11. […] 1. The God-Mastered Man 2. When God Condones Violence 3. Panicked Pressing 4. Frightening Words 5. The Grudge-Match of the Century: The Lion of God vs. Double-Wicked Cushan 6. Up for the Count 7. The One that Didn’t Get Away 8. The Raptor and the Captor 9. Righteous Jealousy 10. Eternal Destruction 11. Faithful Wounds 12. Stand Your Ground * 13. Breaching Reality 14. Are You Struggling? […]

  12. […] with God figuratively and he embraced God by faith. God doesn’t mind when His servants wrestle with Him in order to know Him better. What He has a problem with is when they ignore […]

  13. […] are superior to our ways. Realizing His greatness and our dependence is step one in moving from wrestling with God to worshiping […]

  14. […] prophet Habakkuk reminds me of Jacob in a way. Not that Habakkuk was a devious schemer, but that both seemed to be willing to get very […]

  15. […] a reverence for Him and a desire to truly know Him, know His will, and receive His blessing. Jacob did it. Job did it. Asaph did it in Psalm 73. Habakkuk did […]

  16. […] also the prophesied human Savior, from the seed of Eve and Adam, descendant of Abraham and Jacob (renamed Israel), prefigured by Moses, of the line of David, who would qualify for David’s earthly throne […]


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