White Theology pp 249-250 | Cite as


Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series (BRWT)


In the Genesis story, Jacob is saved only by virtue of having passed through his own ultimate horror. Having stolen his brother’s birthright by a ruse of skin, having introduced the fear of death into that relationship by making it subservient to an economic end (inheritance of the family wealth), having usurped power and fled the place of encounter, Jacob finally comes to the end of his own flight and decides to return home. At the crossover point (the Jabbuk river) into Esau’s turf, he seeks first to buy reconciliation and then opts to face the entire history of his dishonesty alone at the border. The border is understood to be a place of haunting, an intersection of political power and supra-political principality. He is moving from one dominion to another. There are dues to be paid, a right (and rite) of passage to be negotiated. The exact force that resists him remains nameless, even though the import of the midnight encounter is clear. The terror is one of Dying—in its absolute meaning not merely of physical death, but of that uncanny “other” aspect of death that has something of horror about it. The terror is one of transgressing a certain Ultimacy and facing its face without mediation. Seeing the face of “God,” absent a veil of covering, in Jacob’s culture, is popularly imagined as a mortal encounter.


Political Power Crossover Point Entire History Ethnicity Study Family Wealth 
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© James W. Perkinson 2004

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