Please note that I am not arguing for or against the doctrine of trinity. I merely assume its definition without approval or disapproval. This is NOT a question on trinity. If you have trouble separating definitions from the process of logical deductions, I suggest that you do not answer or even bother further reading this question. Thank you.

Genesis 32:

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

28Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Hosea 12:

3In the womb he [Jacob] grasped his brother’s heel,
and in his vigor he wrestled with God.
4a Yes, he struggled with the angel and prevailed;

Was this angel a person in the Godhead?

  • 2
    It seems like things would be a lot simpler if H4397 ("malak") were consistently translated as messenger... Apr 22 '21 at 17:37
  • @TonyChan. Do you really believe Jacob prevailed against God in this struggle? If Jacob's hip was dislocated after the angel touched It, more damage, possibly mortal, could be inflicted had the angel chose to do so. So, if we take that it was God whom Jacob struggled, how do you explain him prevailing against God? Is God all powerful if his creation can prevail against Him? Apr 22 '21 at 18:50
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    Sorry, I do not know. That's why I raised the question?
    – Tony Chan
    Apr 22 '21 at 19:01
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    Wouldn't the Hermeneutic requirement be to establish the reference to a "godhead" from the previous verses of Genesis, before asking if Yaqov wrestled anything other than a mal'ak? Apr 22 '21 at 20:56
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    @TonyChan. Use logic to answer these questions. Do you really believe Jacob prevailed against God in this struggle? If Jacob's hip was dislocated after the angel touched It, more damage, possibly mortal, could be inflicted had the angel chose to do so. So, if we take that it was God whom Jacob struggled, how do you explain him prevailing against God? Is God all powerful if man can prevail against him? If you believe Jesus is God, , why don't you believe him when he said that the Father is the only true God? Is God an angel? Aren't you going beyond what is written? Apr 23 '21 at 14:22

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.

  • When one is determined to argue from a (/any) translation that God is one (as in singular and not one, as in united) and not from the Hebrew, “God is echad” (united) or Greek, “God is hen” (united) it seems that no amount of Scripture verses matter. The loyalty to unquestioned dogma generated often times from a translation rather than Scripture (original language) is astounding. I was considering doing an extensive list of verses showing the Father as God, the Son as God and the Holy Spirit as God in the OT. If only people were more loyal to the Scriptures than blindly adhering to creeds Apr 23 '21 at 12:44
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    The simple fact is the trinity is not in the bible. Equivocation will not put the subject in the bible. Apr 23 '21 at 13:40
  • The word Trinity is not @AlexBalilo but God being represented by three distinct persons is in the OT... and NT. God being united/echad is in the Bible. If I were to show you three distinct persons called God in the OT would you be open to repenting or are you set in your ways? Apr 23 '21 at 15:15
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    Echad means the number 1. Echad does not mean 1=3 or 3=1. Where in the bible can you find that God is 3 and yet you cannot call them 3 God's and 1 God yet is numerically 3 Apr 23 '21 at 16:19
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    The combining doesn't make the meaning of the word echad to mean 2 or 3.. Show me a verse where echad means 2 or 3.. Echad means 1. You cannot twist it to make it to mean 3. Echad does not mean trinity. Apr 23 '21 at 18:06

The answer is very definitely yes. The wrestling match is one of the strangest and most memorable events in the Bible—and, as with other strange, memorable events, full of deep meaning.

As befitting the Bible’s deliberate allusiveness, we are never quite explicitly told that Jacob wrestled with God. Instead, we are left to infer it afterward from a series of increasingly explicit facts, that (a) Jacob will not let the "man" go until he extracts a blessing (32:26-29; and of what strange "man" would Jacob ask a blessing?); (b) the "man" names Jacob "Israel," establishing that he is his master, as throughout the Bible those in authority name or rename those subordinate to them (32:28); (c) the name given can be rendered "wrestles with God" (32:28); and (d) he calls the place "Peniel: for I have seen God face to face" (32:30). The last two in particular make it very clear that Jacob believes himself—and the narrator clearly agrees with him—to have wrestled with God.

This was, clearly, the Angel of the Lord returned yet again, and, as Matthew Henry aptly quotes, of another appearance of this Angel, "Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him." (Ex 23:21)

But "wrestled with God": whatever can this mean? That is the real puzzle here. We can, it seems, dismiss the notion that this was a spirit or ghostly representation of the Lord, because the "man" is described as such, and the wrestling match put Jacob’s hip, his actual bone-and-sinew hip, out of joint. Besides, we have already seen many examples of theophanies in which God appears as a man; the clearest example is in Gen 18.

But wait, I hear someone reply, what if the wrestling, and the dislocation, and the limp were all metaphorical? The bout happened at night: perhaps Jacob merely dreamed them all? After all, the match ended with the morning light. Then we might say the wrestling was metaphorical or dreamed, and what really happened was earnest, struggling prayer or animated conversation with the Lord, or there was a dreamed contest. Does that not make more sense anyway?

My reply is that by now we must have learned that the Bible is full of things that strike the modern mind as odd. There is nothing in the text to suggest a metaphor shoehorned into an otherwise mostly straightforward, literal narrative. As to the dream hypothesis, he limped after the sun rose and, if it had been a dream, the dream would have ended; nighttime dreams of wrestling do not result in daytime limping. What I think is most likely is that Jacob actually did wrestle with God, and yet this match had a larger meaning both to Jacob and to the Lord.

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