Genesis 30:8
Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

Genesis 32:28
The man said, "From now on, your name will no longer be Jacob. You will be called Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won."

Is there any parallel significance between these two wrestling incidents?

  • The fact that the two definitive names (Naphtali and Isra-el) are entirely different seems, to me, to indicate that the incidents are not 'parallel' but only similar.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 0:49
  • 1
    Maybe through Jacob's wrestling with Esau; a family trait. But, Ishmael was worse.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Feb 21, 2021 at 1:42

1 Answer 1


You can certainly find some parallels to Gen 30.8

Younger versus Older

Rachel wrestling with Leah would be one example of the younger wrestling with the older sibling, where God chooses the younger and rejects the older. This would be Abel vs Cain, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah. So in terms of Jacob's life, I'd compare Rachel's wrestling with Leah with Gen 25:23-26:

And Yahweh said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from birth shall be divided. And one people shall be stronger than the other. And the elder shall serve the younger.”

And when her days to give birth were completed, then—behold—twins were in her womb. And the first came out red, all his body was like a hairy coat, so they called his name Esau.

And afterward his brother came out, and his hand grasped the heel of Esau, so his name was called Jacob. And Isaac was sixty years old at their birth. (LEB)

Flesh versus Spirit

Just as there are two siblings and God prefers the younger, there is the notion of the two brides, with the groom preferring one over the other. The bride is a type for Israel, or the Church. The promised land is a type for the geographic inheritance together with blessings (jewish) or heaven/spiritual inheritance (Christian)

In both cases, the servant of God (Moses, Abraham's servant, Jacob) goes to the land outside the promise (the world) in order to bring a bride back into the promise. Except in the case of Jacob, he brought back two brides, the one he loved and the one that had to come along. This would be a type for the spirit and the flesh, that are always wrestling with each other. We enter God's promise, but the flesh comes with us, continuing to strive with us even after baptism/leaving egypt.

In fact this idea of the new creation/old creation mirrors the new sibling/old sibling so we can also view the struggle between Abel and Cain/Jacon and Esau and Leah/Rachel as a type of the competition between the spirit versus flesh or the new man versus the old man, last adam versus first adam.

Jacob wrestling with the Angel as the Spirit versus the Flesh

Thus Jacob struggling with the Angel is also an example of this, but is a type of self-struggle which is why he "wins" but also loses "hip is touched" and ends up being transformed (new name). Thus the wrestling was to transform him into something new and was thus a struggle against a different aspect of himself.

When the Angel asks him "what are you called", this is a deeper question about character rather than one of identification.

This request [for a name] compares with Moses’ question to God: “If they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exod. 3:13). An even closer parallel is Luke 8:30, “Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said ‘Legion.’ ” In neither Gen. 32 nor Luke 8 are we to infer from the question that the questioner is ignorant about the identity of his opponent. To raise that possibility is to miss the point of either story. There is no parallel in Gen. 32 between Jacob, who does not know who the man is, and the man, who does not know who Jacob is. In disclosing his name Jacob is doing more than sharing information. He is making a confession about the appropriateness of his name. Only now would Jacob agree with Esau that Jacob is the perfect name for him (27:36). The acknowledgment of the old name, and its unfortunate suitability, paves the way for a new name. Hamilton, V. P. (1995). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50 (p. 333). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

When Jacob finally admits "supplanter", then in that confession there is a victory of the spirit over the flesh, of the inner man over the old, of the new man over the old man. Jacob's name is changed to "She/he who sees God" and

Thus Jacob named the place "peniel" [face] because "I have seen God face to face and my life was spared".

But in some sense, his life was not spared, as we know from Exodus that:

But he said, “You are not able to see my face, because a human[Adam] will not see me and live.” Ex 33.20

Thus the old man, adam, dies when he sees God, and it was the new man, Israel, that lived.

This idea of the hero going through a death also occurs in Joseph being thrown into the pit, Moses in the basket, Jonah in the fish, etc.


Jacob's wrestling with the Angel is the struggle through which Israel defeats Jacob, and thus is yet another example of the younger versus the older, of messiah versus adam, spirit versus flesh, the one God desires verus the one God rejects, etc.

Thus there is a parallel with Rachel wrestling Leah and also winning victory over her.

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