The simple facts are these from the passage Gen 32:22-32 -
- the "Man" with whom Jacob wrestled said, "you have struggled with God and with men, and you have prevailed."
- Jacob named the Peniel because he said, "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
- Hos 12:3 - also confirms that Jacob wrestled with God
Unless we are willing to explain or excuse these plain statements, then the text clearly says that Jacob struggled with God. [There appears to be a possible allusion to this in Col 4:12 and Eph 6:12.]
We find another epiphany in Josh 5:13 - 6:2 in which we have clear statements:
- V14 - Joshua falls in reverence before the LORD (contrast Acts 10:25, 26, Rev 19:10, 22:8, 9)
- V15 - The Commander of the LORD's army instructs Joshua to remove his sandals in reverence
- V2 - And the LORD said to Joshua, “Behold, I have delivered Jericho into your hand, along with its king and its mighty men of valor.
See also Judges 6:14 and the appendix below.
Thus, it appears people coming face to face with God in the OT occurred a number of times and in this regard, Jacob's encounter is one of many more.
The fact that Jacob was "allowed" to prevail against God was the same reason Abraham was allowed to bargain with the God in Gen 18 - God is gracious. While God is omnipotent, He is also very kind.
APPENDIX - Epiphanies in the OT
The following passages make it clear that the “Angel of the LORD” is almost always, the LORD (Jehovah) Himself, probably Jesus in particular. Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1.
A closely related phrase, “Angel of God” who is clearly God as in Gen 6:13, 8:15, 9:8, 17, 15:13, 17:3, 4, 21:12, 16-21, 35:1, 10, Ex 4:3-8, 6:2, 23:20, 21, Deut 1:6, 1 Kings 12:22, etc.
In view of the clear statements in John 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 1 John 4:12 that no one has seen God the Father, and the numerous cases listed above of people seeing the LORD and the Angel of the LORD, etc, it appears that these epiphanies were probably of the pre-incarnate Jesus.