Genesis 32:32
Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is on the hollow of the thigh, to this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(32) The sinew which shrank.—This translation has much authority in its favour, as the LXX. render the sinew that became numb, and the Vulgate the sinew that withered. More probably, however, it is the proper name for the large tendon which takes its origin from the spinal cord, and extends down the thigh unto the ankle. Technically it is called nervus ischiaticus, and by the Greeks was named tendo Achillis, because it reaches to the heel. Jewish commentators notice that this was the second special ordinance imposed upon the race of Abraham, circumcision having been enjoined upon them by God, while this grew out of an historical event in the life of their progenitor, to the reality of which it bears remarkable testimony.

32:24-32 A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer. The Angel puts a lasting mark of honour upon him, by changing his name. Jacob signifies a supplanter. From henceforth he shall be celebrated, not for craft and artful management, but for true valour. Thou shalt be called Israel, a prince with God, a name greater than those of the great men of the earth. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God; those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Having power with God, he shall have power with men too; he shall prevail, and gain Esau's favour. Jacob gives a new name to the place. He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel, Ho 12:4,5. Jacob halted on his thigh. It might serve to keep him from being lifted up with the abundance of the revelations. The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God.Peniel - the face of God. The reason of this name is assigned in the sentence, "I have seen God face to face." He is at first called a man. Hosea terms him the angel (Hosea 12:4-5 (3, 4). And here Jacob names him God. Hence, some men, deeply penetrated with the ineffable grandeur of the divine nature, are disposed to resolve the first act at least into an impression on the imagination. We do not pretend to define with undue nicety the mode of this wrestling. And we are far from saying that every sentence of Scripture is to be understood in a literal sense. But until some cogent reason be assigned, we do not feel at liberty to depart from the literal sense in this instance. The whole theory of a revelation from God to man is founded upon the principle that God can adapt himself to the apprehension of the being whom he has made in his own image. This principle we accept, and we dare not limit its application "further than the demonstrative laws of reason and conscience demand." If God walk in the garden with Adam, expostulate with Cain, give a specification of the ark to Noah, partake of the hospitality of Abraham, take Lot by the hand to deliver him from Sodom, we cannot affirm that he may not, for a worthy end, enter into a bodily conflict with Jacob. These various manifestations of God to man differ only in degree. If we admit anyone, we are bound by parity of reason to accept all the others.

We have also already noted the divine method of dealing with man. He proceeds from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the complex, from the material to the spiritual, from the sensible to the super-sensible. So must he do, until he have to deal with a world of philosophers. And even then, and only then, will his method of teaching and dealing with people be clearly and fully understood. The more we advance in the philosophy of spiritual things, the more delight will we feel in discerning the marvelous analogy and intimate nearness of the outward to the inward, and the material to the spiritual world. We have only to bear in mind that in man there is a spirit as well as a body; and in this outward wrestling of man with man we have a token of the inward wrestling of spirit with spirit, and therefore, an experimental instance of that great conflict of the Infinite Being with the finite self, which grace has introduced into our fallen world, recorded here for the spiritual edification of the church on earth.

"My life is preserved." The feeling of conscience is, that no sinner can see the infinitely holy God and live. "And he halted upon his thigh." The wrenching of the tendons and muscles was mercifully healed, so as to leave a permanent monument, in Jacob's halting gait, that God had overcome his self-will.

- Jacob and Esau Meet

17. סכת sûkkôth, Sukkoth, "booths," consisting of poles forming a roof covered with branches, leaves, or grass.

19. חמור chămôr Chamor, "ass, red, heap." קשׂיטה qeśı̂yṭâh Qesitah, weighed or measured. Ἀμνὸς Amnos, Septuagint and Onkelos

Jacob has a friendly interview with Esau, and re-+enters Kenaan.

32. the sinew which shrank—the nerve that fastens the thigh bone in its socket. The practice of the Jews in abstaining from eating this in the flesh of animals, is not founded on the law of Moses, but is merely a traditional usage. The sinew is carefully extracted; and where there are no persons skilled enough for that operation, they do not make use of the hind legs at all. Not from any superstitious conceit about it, but only for a memorial of this admirable conflict, the blessed effects whereof even the future generations received. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank,.... Which was contracted by the touch of the angel, and by which it was weakened and benumbed; or the sinew of the part that was out of joint, the sinew or tendon that keeps the thigh bone in the socket, together with the flesh that covered it, or the muscle in which it is; or that sinew, others, that contracts itself and gives motion to the thigh bone to work itself: of this the Israelites eat not:

which is upon the hollow of the thigh; or the cap of it:

unto this day; when Moses wrote this history:

because he the angel touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh, in the sinew that shrank; and very superstitiously do they abstain from it unto this day: they have a whole chapter in one of their treatises in the Misnah (l), giving rules concerning it; where it is forbidden to eat of it, whether in the land of Israel or out of it; whether in common food or sacrifices, even in burnt offerings it was to be taken out; and whether in cattle of the house or of the field; and both in the right and left thigh, but not in fowls, because they have no hollow, and butchers are not to be trusted; and whoever eats of it to the quantity of an olive is to be beaten with forty stripes; and because the Jews are more ignorant of this nerve, as Mercer observes, therefore they abstain from all nerves in the posteriors of animals. Leo of Modena says (m), of what beast soever they eat, they are very careful to take away all the fat and the sinew which shrunk: and hence it is, that in many places in Italy, and especially in Germany, they eat not at all of the hinder quarters of ox, lamb, or goat; because there is in those parts of the beast both very much fat, and also the forbidden sinew; and it asketh so much care to cleanse the parts of these, that there are few that are able to do it, or dare to undertake it.

(l) Cholin. c. 7. sect. 1. 3. (m) History of the Rites, Customs, &c. of the Jews, part 2. c. 7. sect. 3. p. 91. 92.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
32. Therefore the children of Israel] The Compiler adds this note, which explains the Israelite custom of abstaining from eating the muscle in an animal, corresponding to the muscle, or sinew, in the thigh of Jacob that was touched by God: it was regarded as sacred.

This tendon is commonly supposed to be the sciatic muscle, nervus ischiaticus, running from the thigh to the ankle. No mention of this practice of ritual abstinence occurs in the Levitical law; but it is referred to in the Talmud Tract Chullin, cap. vii.

he touched] The subject to the verb is not expressed, out of motives of reverence.

“The nature of the lameness produced by injury to the sinew of the thigh socket is explained by the Arabic lexx., s.v. ḥârifat; the man can only walk on the tips of his toes” (!).—Robertson Smith, Rel. Sem (380, n. 1).Verse 32. - Therefore the children of Israel cat not of the sinew which shrank, - the gid hannasheh, rendered by the LXX. τὸ νεῦρον ὅ ἐνάρκησεν, the nerve which became numb, and by the Vulgate nervus qui emarcuit, the nerve which withered, is the long tendon or sinew nervus ischiaticus (the tends Achillis of the Greeks) reaching from the spinal marrow to the ankle. The derivation of hannasheh is unknown (Gesenius), though the LXX. appear to have connected it with nashah, to dislocate, become feeble; Ainsworth with nashah, to forget (i.e. the sinew that forgot its place), and Furst with nashah, to be prolonged (vide 'Michaelis Suppl.', p. 303) - which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: - i.e. the day of Moses; though the custom continues to the present time among the Hebrews of cutting out this sinew from the beasts they kill and eat (vide Ainsworth in loco); but, according to Michaelis (Suppl., p. 305), eo nemo omnino mortalium, si vel nullo cogna-tionis gradu Jacobum attingat, nemo Graecus, nemo barbarus vesci velit - because he (i.e. the angel) touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.



"And when He (the unknown) saw that He did not overcome him, He touched his hip-socket; and his hip-socket was put out of joint (תּקע from רקע) as He wrestled with him." Still Jacob would not let Him go until He blessed him. He then said to Jacob, "They name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel (ישׂראל, God's fighter, from שׂרה to fight, and אל God); for thou hast fought with God and with men, and hast prevailed." When Jacob asked Him His name, He declined giving any definite answer, and "blessed him there." He did not tell him His name; not merely, as the angel stated to Manoah in reply to a similar question (Judges 13:18), because it was פּלא wonder, i.e., incomprehensible to mortal man, but still more to fill Jacob's soul with awe at the mysterious character of the whole event, and to lead him to take it to heart. What Jacob wanted to know, with regard to the person of the wonderful Wrestler, and the meaning and intention of the struggle, he must already have suspected, when he would not let Him go until He blessed him; and it was put before him still more plainly in the new name that was given to him with this explanation, "Thou hast fought with Elohim and with men, and hast conquered." God had met him in the form of a man: God in the angel, according to Hosea 12:4-5, i.e., not in a created angel, but in the Angel of Jehovah, the visible manifestation of the invisible God. Our history does not speak of Jehovah, or the Angel of Jehovah, but of Elohim, for the purpose of bringing out the contrast between God and the creature.

This remarkable occurrence is not to be regarded as a dream or an internal vision, but fell within the sphere of sensuous perception. At the same time, it was not a natural or corporeal wrestling, but a "real conflict of both mind and body, a work of the spirit with intense effort of the body" (Delitzsch), in which Jacob was lifted up into a highly elevated condition of body and mind resembling that of ecstasy, through the medium of the manifestation of God. In a merely outward conflict, it is impossible to conquer through prayers and tears. As the idea of a dream or vision has no point of contact in the history; so the notion, that the outward conflict of bodily wrestling, and the spiritual conflict with prayer and tears, are two features opposed to one another and spiritually distinct, is evidently at variance with the meaning of the narrative and the interpretation of the prophet Hosea. Since Jacob still continued his resistance, even after his hip had been put out of joint, and would not let Him go till He had blessed him, it cannot be said that it was not till all hope of maintaining the conflict by bodily strength was taken from him, that he had recourse to the weapon of prayer. And when Hosea (Hosea 12:4-5) points his contemporaries to their wrestling forefather as an example for their imitation, in these words, "He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his human strength he fought with God; and he fought with the Angel and prevailed; he wept and made supplication unto Him," the turn by which the explanatory periphrasis of Jacob's words, "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me," is linked on to the previous clause by בּכה without a copula or vav consec., is a proof that the prophet did not regard the weeping and supplication as occurring after the wrestling, or as only a second element, which was subsequently added to the corporeal struggle. Hosea evidently looked upon the weeping and supplication as the distinguishing feature in the conflict, without thereby excluding the corporeal wrestling. At the same time, by connecting this event with what took place at the birth of the twins (Genesis 25:26), the prophet teaches that Jacob merely completed, by his wrestling with God, what he had already been engaged in even from his mother's womb, viz., his striving for the birthright; in other words, for the possession of the covenant promise and the covenant blessing. This meaning is also indicated by the circumstances under which the event took place. Jacob had wrested the blessing of the birthright from his brother Esau; but it was by cunning and deceit, and he had been obliged to flee from his wrath in consequence. And now that he desired to return to the land of promise and his father's house, and to enter upon the inheritance promised him in his father's blessing; Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men, which filled him with great alarm. As he felt too weak to enter upon a conflict with him, he prayed to the covenant God for deliverance from the hand of his brother, and the fulfilment of the covenant promises. The answer of God to this prayer was the present wrestling with God, in which he was victorious indeed, but not without carrying the marks of it all his life long in the dislocation of his thigh. Jacob's great fear of Esau's wrath and vengeance, which he could not suppress notwithstanding the divine revelations at Bethel and Mahanaim, had its foundation in his evil conscience, in the consciousness of the sin connected with his wilful and treacherous appropriation of the blessing of the first-born. To save him from the hand of his brother, it was necessary that God should first meet him as an enemy, and show him that his real opponent was God Himself, and that he must first of all overcome Him before he could hope to overcome his brother. And Jacob overcame God; not with the power of the flesh however, with which he had hitherto wrestled for God against man (God convinced him of that by touching his hip, so that it was put out of joint), but by the power of faith and prayer, reaching by firm hold of God even to the point of being blessed, by which he proved himself to be a true wrestler of God, who fought with God and with men, i.e., who by his wrestling with God overcame men as well. And whilst by the dislocation of his hip the carnal nature of his previous wrestling was declared to be powerless and wrong, he received in the new name of Israel the prize of victory, and at the same time directions from God how he was henceforth to strive for the cause of the Lord. - By his wrestling with God, Jacob entered upon a new stage in his life. As a sign of this, he received a new name, which indicated, as the result of this conflict, the nature of his new relation to God. But whilst Abram and Sarai, from the time when God changed their names (Genesis 17:5 and Genesis 17:15), are always called by their new names; in the history of Jacob we find the old name used interchangeably with the new. "For the first two names denoted a change into a new and permanent position, effected and intended by the will and promise of God; consequently the old names were entirely abolished. But the name Israel denoted a spiritual state determined by faith; and in Jacob's life the natural state, determined by flesh and blood, still continued to stand side by side with this. Jacob's new name was transmitted to his descendants, however, who were called Israel as the covenant nation. For as the blessing of their forefather's conflict came down to them as a spiritual inheritance, so did they also enter upon the duty of preserving this inheritance by continuing in a similar conflict.

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