In the Wilderness: 2 Jacob Wrestles With The Angel

DSCF9147Here is the second in my suite of seven sonnets on the theme of Wilderness composed in response to a set of paintings by Adan Boulter which will be exhibited along with the poems at St. Margaret’s Westminster . As before, I am giving you the initial sketch from Adam’s notebook with his pencilled notes (shown above) and then my sonnet in response. The finished paintings, made with both the sketch and the sonnet to hand, can be seen any day in lent at St. Margaret’s between 9am and 4pm.

In the first painting and sonnet Abraham welcomed the angels who were the harbingers of Isaac’s arrival. Now we skip  generation and Isaac’s own son has that life-changing encounter, that long wrestle in the dark that will change his name to Israel and change his future and ours for ever. This meeting with an angel is the harbinger of his dramatic encounter and reconciliation with his wronged brother Esau, the brother-victim he had deceived but in whose face he now recognises the face of God. I have voiced this poem for Jacob but written it full consciousness that his story is also ours, that we too, in our brokenness and alienation must also wrestle with, and be changed by the Love that wounds and heals.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button

2 Jacob Wrestles with the Angel


I dare not face my brother in the morning,

I dare not look upon the things I’ve done,

Dare not ignore a nightmare’s dreadful warning,

Dare not endure the rising of the sun.

My family, my goods, are sent before me,

I cannot sleep on this strange river shore,

I have betrayed the son of one who bore me,

And my own soul rejects me to the core.


But in the desert darkness one has found me,

Embracing me, He will not let me go,

Nor will I let Him go, whose arms surround me,

Until he tells me all I need to know,

And blesses me where daybreak stakes it’s claim,

With love that wounds and heals; and with His name.


Filed under christianity, literature, paintings

10 responses to “In the Wilderness: 2 Jacob Wrestles With The Angel

  1. Offering a translation 🙂
    Jacob se bat avec l’ange

    Je n’ose pas faire face à mon frère quand viendra matin,
    Je n’ose pas regarder les choses que j’ai faites,
    Ni ignorer l’avertissement terrible d’un cauchemar,
    Je n’ose pas affronter le lever du soleil.
    Ma famille, mes biens, sont envoyés par devant moi,
    Je ne peux pas dormir sur ce rivage étrange de la rivière,
    J’ ai trahi le fils de celui qui m’a donné la vie,
    Et mon âme me rejette jusqu’au cœur .

    Mais dans l’obscurité du désert un être m’a trouvé,
    M’embrassant, il ne me lâchera pas,
    Pas plus que je ne le laisserai partir, celui dont les bras m’entourent,
    Jusqu’à ce qu’il me dise tout ce que je dois savoir,
    Et me comble, là où l’aube viendra me chercher,
    de l’amour qui blesse et qui guérit; et de Son nom.

    (toute suggestion d’amelioration sera reçue avec plaisir)

  2. Jack H. Haney


    I listened to your reading this sonnet several times. And my memory carries me first back to the Methodist church I grew up in, and the first sermon I ever preached. It wasn’t a great sermon, and I tried to cram too much into it, but I chose this as my text, and the sermon hymn was Charles Wesley’s “Come, O thou traveler unknown.” I rejoice that I cut my spiritual teeth in singing Wesley’s hymns. But another thought crowded in as I listened. The Crucifixion, and how God wrestles with God’s self in unconditional love as his Son hung on the cross, and it is only love that does not die, but travels into the abyss with Jesus to harrow hell, and it is this same love of God that raises Christ in three days, and empties hell. Meditative thoughts. ….

    Thank you for this sonnet.

    Jack Haney

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Julie

    Reblogged this on My Life and the History of the World and commented:
    Malcolm Guite, our poet-priest, writes on Jacob wrestling with an angel.

  4. Eileen Devaney


    I found a typo: “where daybreak stakes its claim” (not “it’s claim”)

    I’m really enjoying this series of sonnets and paintings. Can’t wait for #3!



  5. The turning-point of Jacob’s history: “But … one has found me”.

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