Jacob wrestled with Yhwh and Yhwh wrestled with Jacob. It would be hard to say who won the match, but it lasted a long time and Jacob ended up with a limp from an injured hip joint.

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. The wrestling match of Yhwh and Israel is a pretty good parable for the rest of Israel’s history. The people of Israel — from the time of the Exodus until the times of the exile — continually wrestled with Yhwh. In the end, I guess you could say Israel won the match but paid the price for victory. Yet the match goes on and we have assurance that Yhwh will eventually prevail.

Plato’s picture of God, imported into most of Christian theology, sees God as absolutely sovereign. God cannot lose a wrestling match.

But the Old Testament displays a different kind of God. Yhwh interacts with people. If you wanted to, you could call Yhwh a relational God. He loves his people and his love for his people causes him to allow them freedom to act, even when they oppose him.

Many theologians try to bury this God in talk of anthropomorphism, claiming that God is really like Plato described him and the Old Testament picture is just people trying to describe such a God in ways they could understand. As if the Hebrews were not able to think about God as clearly as we are. God had to accommodate their childishness.


The Old Testament describes God as he is. I love the God described in the Old Testament. I cannot love Plato’s god, the god who treats his creation as a squad of robots.

Let go of Plato and Augustine and Calvin and Piper and read your Bible. Read your Bible!