28 Then the man[a] said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[b] for you have striven with God and with humans,[c] and have prevailed.” 29 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. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[d] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
It’s clear. He wrestles with God, so is given the name Israel which mean struggles with God. God tells him “you fought God” and then Jacob says “I saw God.”
Some people think that the activity going on here “until daybreak” was not, originally, wrestling. I don’t know about that, but vide the astonishing abruptness with which the story begins:
24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
It might as well say [REDACTED] in red ink. You can see it’s an orphan story stuck in the middle of an unrelated narrative, but even recycling and recontextualizing a story you would usually write it with a beginning. What you would expect from this kind of story about a god coming to see a man would be “God saw how very strong (or proud) Jacob was, so he decided to fight him.” Or–if it was the other way–“God saw how beautiful Jacob was, so he went to him to have sex with him.”
But yeah, Whack-a-Mole, it is bizarre to us that it once seemed reasonable to write a story where God fights a man one-on-one and loses. But it was so important to them that they had to squeeze it in there somehow! I don’t know if they loved depicting God as weak, but it provides two classic Hebrew Bible just-so stories in one slim package: the origin of Israel’s name, and the origin of a kosher practice. That kind of stuff is irresistible to these authors. They can’t help themselves! It always makes me smile.
I don’t know if “hip” is used euphemistically often as “thigh” and “feet” are–maybe RivkahChaya could help here–but damn, they say hip a lot. The writers didn’t always like to be specific about referring to the lower areas of the body. The specificity of of the description urges away from a euphemistic reading, but again, this is a just-so story. And if it’s not euphemism, some of you are in the demographic that has had a hip replacement: your doctor may have warned you that vigorous intercourse can dislocate your hip.
It’s not as clear here as when eg “Ham saw his father’s nakedness” in some of these stories, you realize “Oh, this is one of those that’s more like those Zeus stories.” It’s not clear. But ever since I was a kid, to me this is one of those strikingly, aggressively bizarre stories that demand active participation from the reader to fill in the utterly intriguing blanks.