Jacob and the Angel by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1940–1941
I saw you in the middle of the night,
in the middle of my failure.
For twenty years had I striven with my foes,
seven years of hard work for Rachel…
but I was deceitfully given Leah,
whom I did not want. Another seven for Rachel.
Fourteen years, with nothing to show for them,
and then, six years of success
against all odds: Laban’s cheats,
his sons’ cheats, their animosity.
A most unlikely place to make a fortune,
and yet, I did.
And I escaped,
and Laban saw that You were with me,
and let me go.
* * *
And now my brother, my enemy, Esau,
comes against me with four hundred men.
And he has good reason.
I have provoked his anger with my trickery.
I do confess it.
On what grounds then, can I ask you to protect me?
None, really, save your goodness.
* * *
How I have wrestled for blessing with Esau, with Laban.
But one cannot trick for blessing, exploit, extort, or manipulate.
You are the giver of blessing,
And you give it freely.
I will not let you go, unless you bless me.
I will not take no for an answer.
Bless me, bless me indeed,
for that is what I have wanted all my life,
what I have wanted above everything:
Then the man said, “You have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 31)