This article on Genesis 32:32 is about our weakness and the victory of God, and weakness and the strength of God.

Source: Clarion, 1988. 2 pages.

Genesis 32:32 – The Touched Thigh

Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because He touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh on the sinew of the hip.

Genesis 32:32

Jacob's wrestling

At the close of the account of Jacob's wrestling match with the Angel who appeared in the form of a man the writer notes that a custom developed in Israel because of this event, a custom which continues among the Jews to this day. So significant was the meeting with the divine messenger that it is remembered in one of the most basic of aspects of Israel's life. An especially desired portion of meat is deliberately not eaten as an act of remembrance. This was a place touched by the LORD Himself!

The New Testament does not mention this custom at all. In fact, it is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Jesus pronounced all foods clean, Mark 7:19. And Peter's vision in Acts 10 was also an indication that in the New Testament the distinction between clean and unclean foods had fallen away. But does this event still have its significance in the new dispensation? And why was this such a remembered event?

The custom becomes clearer to us when we recall that in Israel the thigh was the symbol of strength and power. The sword was normally girded on the thigh. The thigh was especially the symbol of procreative power. So Abraham tells his servant to put his hand under his thigh when he swears an oath to properly perform his master's orders, Genesis 24:9. The same word is also used as an euphemism for a woman's ability to conceive and bear children in Numbers 5:21, 22.

Jacob was undoubtedly aware of this as he was touched by the angel. For in the conflict with the Angel of the LORD – a conflict of weeping and tears, cf. Hosea 12:4 – he came to realize that he would not be an immediate inheritor of all the promises. He would not gain equal status with Esau as a powerful and respected warrior in the region. He would not emerge as a triumphant victor over his brother. He would receive the victory, but only in weakness. The promise would only be partially fulfilled in his own lifetime. The thrust of the fulfillment belonged to the future, and to the generations following him.

As the sun rose upon him, Jacob walked into a new dawn and a new day. He was a changed man! He knew he had received the blessing and could count on the victory in his family. But he also learned that his victory could only come by God's power, and without his own strength. That is what the touch of his thigh by God told him. The victory would not come through his own strength, and also not through his procreative power. The victory in the line of his descendants would come from one who would come forth from him, but who in actual fact did not belong to his descendants. The one born out of him would be born by a divine power, a breaking into the line of the generations by a special divine intrusion. And as it was here, so it would only be a divine touch – a touch of the womb.

Indeed, this is the way God manifests His victory in Israel, and this is the way Israel also receives a share in His victory. God Himself brings the Saviour into the world. And – as Jacob learned in his wrestling match with the Angel – Israel could only share the inheritance in this victory by faith! For Jacob had to learn to rely not on his own strength, but on the strength of the one who calls into existence the things that do not exist, and brings to nothing the things that are.

thigh bone

So even though we observe no special custom, the touch of Jacob's thigh has lasting significance for the church. Indeed, in Christ, it all carries over into the New Testament age. Christ won His triumph in weakness. Through humiliation, suffering and death He attained the victory! And so He continues with His apostles.

To Paul He says: "My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

We are taught here that with all the rich treasures we may receive in Christ by faith, we are still a limping people. In other words, we can never presume to do anything in our own strength or power. We can never insist that our way is the best way to establish and ensure God's reign in this world. He establishes it in His time and His way, through His power alone – with ourselves as His instruments. And like Jacob, we must continually have our hearts and eyes set on the promise and its fulfillment. We must fight for the promise as he did! Yet we know that we, too, cannot expect immediate fulfillment or great gains. We only make a small beginning in this life – limping as we go!

And yet the LORD goes forward manifesting His glorious power in the world. He is pleased to manifest that power in the weakness of His church. He is pleased to show His heavenly treasures in earthen vessels – if only to accentuate that the transcendent power belongs to Him and not to us. Therefore, with every weakness we may go forward in confidence. In Christ we may share the victory. Blessed are those who have on their side the Mighty One of Jacob!

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