We engage with classic texts from the past not so they slavishly define our present, nor so to judge and dismiss them from contemporary standards.
Instead, these texts are heard and the considered response we make is at once informed by them and seeks to move on from them.
Engaging with these alien texts provides us with an opportunity to grow that cannot be present if all we take on board is simply the restatement of our current points of view and biases.
These observations about the Biblical patriarch Jacob are removed from some specific context, but I like them as observations about Jacob, and about his struggle with a power he knows he cannot prevail against, a power he believes will be benevolent toward him.
…Jacob, in the book of Genesis, who, by the side of a stream called Jabbok, all through the night, wrestles with “a man.” They grapple for hours, and then, as the sun rises, the man has had enough, but Jacob says to him, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Jacob later says that it was God he wrestled with, but hat is a rather demanding attitude to take toward a deity, is it not? But note what Jacob demands. Indeed, to think that struggle and demand are incompatible with reverence is perhaps to misunderstand what reverence is – even what authority itself is.
…Jacob, who wrestled with a mighty figure by the Jabbok not in order to defeat or destroy him, but with a strange generosity, an eager and earnest belief that his opponent had something of great value in his possession, and that he could give it to Jacob. I will not let you go until you bless me.
Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread With The Dead, Profile Books, 2020, pgs 87-88, 90