Jacob Wrestles with God

I was introduced to www.Artway-eu two years ago January 16, when Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker emailed to ask if Artway could feature my work as one of its Visual Meditations (http://www.artway.eu/content.php? id=875&lang=en&action=show).  I recognized her name immediately. When I taught art in Canada in the late sixties, I used Hans Rookmaaker’s book Modern Art and the Death of a Culture as well as Francis Schaeffer’s How Shall We Then Live. Check the articles and videos on this site from L’Abri that date back to this era. This web site is a gold mine of information for artists.  Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker is the editor-in-chief who has edited the Complete Works of her father, art historian Hans Rookmaaker, and produced the magazine LEV for Dutch L’Abri.

Yesterday, Artway’s Visual Meditation caught my eye. It featured the biblical account of Jacob wrestling with God. Jewish painter Arthur Sussman’s image introduces a meditation based on Genesis 32:22-33 by Victoria Emily Jones.

Kick at the Darkness till it Bleeds Daylight

“Genesis 32:22–32 records a story in which the Hebrew patriarch Jacob literally wrestles with God. That is, God comes down from heaven in the form of a man to engage in some hand-to-hand combat. Oddly the text tells that Jacob wins the fight, though he does walk away with a limp. Jewish artist Arthur Sussman portrays this episode as a whirl of wings and arms, flailing, flapping, legs planted and upturned. The focal point is the face of Jacob, clearly struggling but still holding on tightly. Above his head is an orb of light, signifying the break of day (Genesis 32:26), by which Jacob will be able to see his opponent’s face for the first time. This painting doesn’t capture just one moment in the narrative but many moments superimposed on one another. However, amid all the motion, Jacob’s face remains fixed in an expression that seems to indicate that he is almost at the point of surrender. I imagine that this particular freeze frame captures the moment at which God pronounces his blessing on Jacob, right after he has given him the new name ‘Israel’ – ‘he who strives with God.’ Jacob is looking upward and inward as he realizes that validation, blessing and victory come from God alone, not from earthly fathers and definitely not from his own cunning.”
read more…

In the 90s, I did a graphite drawing of this biblical narrative on 22″ x 30″paper.


Recently I revisited this narrative in a painting that is showing at the Water Works Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, North Carolina, in an invitational show called Images of Faiths. My painting is titled Coram Deo / Psalm 46Corem Deo The God of Jacob LThis psalm ends with the words, “Cease striving and know that I am God . . . the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” After wrestling all night, Jacob saw God’s face (Coram Deo means “before the face of God”). He named the place Peniel, which means “the face of God.” Here God changed Jacob’s name (man strives) to Israel (The God who strives). In the top left corner of my painting I embedded an enlarged copy of an engraving of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel from my Dutch Bible published in Dortrecth, Holland, (1736).

Jacob Westles with God          Jacob Wrestles with the Angel 1

WWVA center Salisbury Opening Nov 30
Corem Deo / Psalm 46     36″x 36″ (left)           Artist’s Talk at WWVA Center


Artists throughout history have painted this biblical story.

File:Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 063.jpg
File:Eugène Ferdinand Victor Delacroix 061.jpg

File:Paul Gauguin 137.jpg

And here’s 1920 a drypoint etching by German artist Max Beckmann.

Jakob Ringt mit den Engel (Jacob Wrestles with the Angel)

Beckmann, Jacob Wrestles

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