Jacob and the Angel: Wrasslin' Til Noon At Least
1. And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
So He said to him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Jacob.”
And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”
And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.
2. And Jacob said, “You guys go on ahead, I’ll catch up in a second,” and pretended to be looking for something until everyone crossed out of sight. Then he was wrestling.
“I feel like we just skipped something,” Jacob said to the man he was, apparently, wrestling with. But the man said nothing, just kept wrestling.
“Okay,” Jacob said. “I guess this is not the talking kind of wrestling?” Still no answer. Eventually the sun came up, which means there were at least eight or nine hours of solid, speechless wrestling before that, which, yikes, and at which point the man said, “Stop hitting yourself.”
What was there for Jacob to answer but the only socially correct response? “Stop hitting yourself.”
The man considered. “I’ll stop hitting you if you stop hitting yourself.”
So Jacob shut up and kept wrestling. I don’t know wrestling maneuvers. A pile driver.
“Asshole,” the angel said, sweating.
“You’re the asshole,” Jacob answered.
“Let me go,” the angel said, “for the day breaks.”
“Oh, now we’re talking?” Jacob said (still wrestling. Picture a lot of dynamic action, the kind that lends itself well to short, snappy dialogue). “All night it’s ‘sudden and unprompted wordless wrestling’ with you, but once it starts affecting your schedule, then it’s all, oh, hath the day broke-risen or whatever, time to be a-scootin’, if that’s convenient, and suits ye. Well, it isn’t convenient, and it don’t suit me, so prepare yourself to wrassle til noon at least, guy.”
And the angel took that moment to lay a finger lightly across the socket of Jacob’s hip, which was just entirely too much, and Jacob lost it.
“Fuck,” he said. “Fuck fuck, I need a minute,” and he stepped back, sat into a sort of half-crouch and hugged his arms around his knees.
“I’m sorry,” the angel said after a pause.
“I didn’t say fuck you,” Jacob said. “I was just saying fuck. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I wasn’t expecting it either.”
“Not really the same thing,” Jacob said without looking up, “given that you’re not reevaluating your entire life on the basis of a single touch to the hip socket.”
The angel sat down next to him. (But not too close.) “Would you like a blessing?”
“Obviously I would like a blessing,” Jacob said. “I’d also appreciate an explanation and an apology, but I’ll take a blessing, too.”
“Okay. What’s your name?”
“Fuck you. What’s your name?” Then: “Sorry. That was reflexive.”
“It’s fine,” the angel said, “but I still can’t answer it.”
“Not anymore it’s not,” the angel said, and then for the next part imagine that Jacob said “the shit are you talking about, it’s not?” at the same time the angel said, this time in a real serious voice, because by this time he’d caught his breath from all the wrestling, “Now you are Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and prevailed.”
“The shit are you talking about, it’s not?” Israel said again after a moment’s pause. “Asshole. Asshole! You show up, mid-night, mid-wrestle, without a word of explanation or agreed-upon rules, and then you – you know – and then you promise to bless me and instead pull a bush-league stunt like taking my name out of my mouth.”
“I don’t know,” the angel said. “Do you mean when I touched you on the hip socket? I’ve never done that before. I didn’t know how else to get you to stop wrestling me. Does it hurt?”
“We just wrestled for nine hours. Everything hurts.” Israel shifted in his seat. “I should say, everything but that hurts. You, you show up, and you fight me, and then you touch me, and now I have a different name I’m going to have to explain to everyone.”
“All of those are excellent points,” the angel said. “I rather wish I had not touched you on the hip socket either, for my own reasons.”
Then Israel asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”
And he said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?”
“You’re not the only one who can name things,” Israel said.
“I never said I was the only one who can name things,” the angel said. “Do you want to name something?”
“Yeah, I want to fucking name something,” Israel said. “Obviously I want to do that.”
“You can name this,” the angel said, gesturing towards the rock they’d spent the night wrestling over.
“You changed my name for the rest of my life and I get to name a rock?” And the angel just spread out his hands in response.
“Fuck this,” Israel said, hauling himself up awkwardly on his left leg. “Fuck this, fuck you, fuck this rock – Peniel, by the way, short for “God has once again failed to kill me,” fuck Peniel, fuck daybreak, fuck blessings.” Then: “Touch it again.”
The angel hesitated. “I’m not authorized to do that.”
“I’m not asking you to do it professionally. I’m asking you. I want you to do it again; I want to test a theory, and I’m asking you to do me one-half of a small favor after a series of real unnecessary dick moves.”
Either the angel did or the angel didn’t, but either way, Israel started walking across Penuel shortly thereafter, with the sun shining on his forehead, heading directly towards Jabbok, trying to think of an explanation.