Date of Graduation

Summer 2014


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Matthew Calihman


Jacob wrestles Esau, face of god, storyworld, Israel, world of states

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Many readers often believe that the man who appears before Jacob and wrestles him until daybreak in Genesis 32:24-32 is God, an angel, or another supernatural being. However, the aim of this study is to suggest that the exact identity of the man is not only ambiguous, but that there are other plausible interpretive possibilities within the biblical storyworld, namely that Jacob wrestles not with a supernatural being, but with his twin brother Esau. According to the storyworld theory derived from Doležel's Heterocosmica and Palmer's Fictional Minds, any storyworld has three specific macrostructural conditions: the world of states, the nature force, and the person. Cues from the storyworld and what can be derived from these cues alone indicate that neither God nor an angel are possible opponents for Jacob because the implausibility of Jacob's earnestly overcoming an angel, the general incongruity of the Yahweh character behaving as the combatant does, and the lack of direct textual cues to substantiate that Jacob wrestles a lesser deity or demon. Instead, Esau is more likely to be Jacob's opponent because Esau has motive, is connected to the man with the phrase "the face of God,” follows similar speech patterns, and behaves craftily in his meeting with Jacob.


© Martin Allen Campbell

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