And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
What happens to any one left alone is better worth thinking about than is anything else about him. We all live much of our lives before the world: I mean before that part of mankind which is to each of us our world. But we all live some part of our life alone. We may be utterly alone in a crowd, or even in what is called society. Anywhere, unless you are conscious of more or less sympathy, you are alone. But there are times when we are alone in body, as well as in mind. Jacob was not alone in a crowd. He was alone out of a crowd — alone literally — alone in every sense — alone with God. That which is described occurs every day to a serious and thoughtful man when he is alone. What is it? I can describe it thus. A strife between God and man, which is real but not hostile. It teaches us, if I read aright, that there is a conflict between man and God-or that there may be — which is not one of hostility, but of friendship — a conflict in which God overthrows, but only to raise us the higher. He prevails; lie weakens us; He humbles: but we get the blessing. There is a seeming contradiction in the story's teaching; but the story is true to experience. He prevails and we prevail. It is with the thought of God as with the sight of the ocean. Look at it as you see it first roll up easily upon the shore. It refreshes and it charms. But sit down and look out "alone" upon the unmeasured waste of desert water beyond. Think of the terrific might that slumbers in that vast water-power. Your mind will be held spell-bound and amazed by the overwhelming grandeur of the object. It will be paralysed. And so it is with that Almighty Power of which the ocean is the fittest symbol. The first shallow thought of God sustains and comforts the soul. It affords a standing-ground and a resting place to the reason, which is embarrassed by the problem of existence. It gives the mind a centre and point of view. It gives the explanation which man requires as a rational being. There is wanting a reason for all things that exist, and God is that reason. We go through the reasoning of first cause of laws of lawgiver. To me, and perhaps to you all, this much is clear. There must be God or nothingness: but some one may say, or think when alone — "Why, then God? and why not nothingness?" That is the wrestle. God strikes the soul. He is asked to tell what He is — "Tell me Thy name." "Wherefore is it thou askest after My name?" How crushing an answer from God to man! "But He blessed him there." This is what I have called a strife between God and man, real but not hostile. We are taught about God in our childhood. We learn afterwards to have a reason of the hope that is in us and to be able to give it. We are satisfied that God is intelligible, and, so to speak, reason, let us say, is satisfied: Revelation confirms what reason has declared.
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
WEB: Jacob was left alone, and wrestled with a man there until the breaking of the day.