To pull the passage in question from the King James Bible:

24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 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.
29 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.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31 And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.


There are a couple of things going on here. Apparently, Jacob is the second of two twins, the first man out the hatch being Esau. Esau is the outdoorsman, the physical one. Jacob is the thoughtful one. So it's unusual for him to find himself in this physical conflict. Yet, he is able to struggle, toil, and grapple all night, and into the dawning of the sun.

The passage says nothing about the "man" being an angel until god reveals himself and knocks Jacob's hip out of joint with his pinky finger. We may take this more to mean this struggle was psychic, or metaphorical - that the man is an externalization of Jacob's belief. In the end, this struggle is vitally important, because Jacob is named Israel by the Lord

On a more quotidian note, we get a good old Hebraic dietary prescription about avoiding hip-meat. It always comes back to food.

The fact that Jacob wrestled with the man all night with neither gaining an advantage over the other suggests that the man was his equal in size, strength, and endurance. When the book says, "And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh," it is at first unclear which man is speaking, Jacob or the stranger. As Igloowhite pointed out, the passage says nothing about the man being an angel until he renames Jacob Israel. Many biblical commentators have taken this to mean that Jacob was wrestling (metaphorically, perhaps) with himself and his own ideas about G-d.

This is significant (to me, at least) because the Jews are known as b'nai yisrael, or the Children of Israel, the man who struggled with G-d. They are not the Children of Abraham, who had everything figured out and believed in G-d to the point where he would sacrifice his own son for Him. They are the children of the man who wrestled with his internal misgivings all night and did not even conquer them, but walked away wounded. What I take from that is that we are not supposed to accept G-d blindly, but instead to argue and struggle with Him and with ourselves, perhaps for all of our lives, even if we do not get a clear answer.

Robert Graves in The white Goddess notes that this story has many parallels in myths from all over Europe and the middle east. He hypothesises a deliberate practice of ritual laming, which god-kings would undergo as an alternative to sacrificial kingship.

The injury is an anterior dislocation of the hip, which causes the tendons to contract, so that the heel is raised permanantly off the ground, causing the person to walk with a mincing gait.

This has given rise to stories about heroes and gods vulnerable to heel wounds, or tendon injuries (Achilles, Bran, Krishna, Zeus etc.) and gods with animal hooves (Dionysus, Pan, Satyrs).

How to inflict an anterior hip dislocation on someone:
1)Stand the victim on a river bank, with one foot on land and one foot on a boat.
2)Tie their hair to an overhanging branch of a tree
3)Push the boat out into the water

A similar technique involves standing the victim on the back of a horse or similar animal (as in the stories of Llew law and Absalom.
This injury could also be simulated by wearing high heeled shoes

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