Studies on the God Who Loses

Genesis 32:22-30 is an amazing passage because of what it says about God. Most Christians are familiar with this story, but few really comprehend the implications of God’s words to Jacob. The following narrative describes what happened when God and Jacob met:

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:22-30).

As one reads this text, two important things must be kept in mind. First, is what Jacob said about his experience that night. Jacob said: “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”

A second thing that must be kept in mind when reading this text is what God said about the outcome of his encounter with Jacob. God said to Jacob: “You have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Or, as the NET Bible translates: “You have fought with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28 NET).

In order to clarify this statement, let us put it this way: In his fight with God, Jacob won. In his fight with Jacob, God lost. This statement is hard to understand, but notice that in verse 28 it was God himself who said that Jacob had won the fight.

A God who loses. Now, that is something we seldom hear mentioned.

In the three studies on the God who loses listed below, I seek to study this mysterious passage and its implication for the proper understanding of the God of the Old Testament. My goal is to help you gain a deeper appreciation for the God of the Bible.

Studies on the God Who Loses

The God Who Loses

What Happens When God Loses?

Why God Allows Himself To Lose

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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