Crossing, The Struggle for Identity by Skip Moen takes an in-depth look at the story of Jacob’s wrestling match at the Jabbok River, part of Torah portion Vayishlach. A friend gave me this book, and since that account is in this week’s portion, I decided to go ahead and give it a read. I’m glad I did.
Moen takes the setting back to Abraham, and isn’t afraid to show just how dysfunctional this family really is. Reading between the lines – because all of the details aren’t given to us in Scripture – he explores how Isaac must have felt when Abraham, who had pleaded relentlessly for those living in wicked Sodom, remained silent when God asked him to kill his own son. Did Isaac then “fear” God in the way we normally think of reverence, or did he live in terror of what this uncaring Supreme Being might do next? Moen explores the possibility of a paradigm quite different than what is usually discussed.
Going forward, he looks at the favoritism that Isaac shows to Esau and that Rebekah shows toward Jacob. As Isaac begins to shift that favoritism, the rivalry between the two brothers grows to the point that Jacob flees with the blessing of both his mother and father. Now, as he is returning to his home, the wrestling match takes place. If you are looking for the author to identify who he thinks the mysterious opponent may be, you won’t find it here.
Moen show how that in many ways, Jacob is wrestling with himself. The application to how we wrestle with our own past is thought-provoking and insightful. Though Jacob receives the new name “Israel,” Moen shows that through the remainder of his life he exhibits characteristics of both Jacob, the one who grabs the heel, and Israel, the one who strives with God and man and prevails.
Skip Moen shows an incredible depth of understanding of the Hebraic concepts in the narrative of the life of the patriarchs. “Crossing Yabboq (Jabbok) is the turning point in the life of this man – self-made, filled with unmet emotional needs, striving to control the world of threat – he is also the man of God’s calling – eternally focused, identified with the divine, ready to accept life as it is.”
Go here to buy this book at Amazon.