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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?

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    It seems like things would be a lot simpler if H4397 ("malak") were consistently translated as messenger... Apr 22, 2021 at 17:37
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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, 2021 at 20:56
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    Can God still be called Almighty if man, whom he created, can wrestle and prevail against Him. Sep 5, 2022 at 22:45
  • @TonyChan. Can you please clarify what do you mean by the word Godhead? Sep 5, 2022 at 23:40

3 Answers 3

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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.

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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, 2021 at 13:40
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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, 2021 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, 2021 at 18:06
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    ... probably Jesus in particular ... probably of the pre-incarnate Jesus Of course these little "asides" were dropped into the Answer without a hint of bias (LOL)! Jun 30, 2021 at 15:05
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    Can God still be called Almighty if man, whom he created, can wrestle and prevail against Him. Sep 5, 2022 at 22:56
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Without defining Godhead, the OP asked "Was this angel a person in the Godhead?"

Thus, as the question implies, the Godhead is compose of more than one person, if not, the OP could have simply asked if Jacob wrestled with God.

Granting, this angel/man is God, why did the man ask Jacob his name? Wouldn’t God, or an angel of God, already know it? Genesis 32:27.

Hosea 12: 4 shows that Jacob wrestled with an angel.

Hosea 12:4 JPS Tanach So he strove with an angel, and prevailed; He wept, and made supplication unto him; At Beth-el he would find him, And there he would speak with us;

If the bible speaks of only one true God, Deuteronomy 6:4 and John 17:3 who also is the Almighty, Jeremiah 32:17 how can Jacob wrestle and prevail against the Almighty God?

To say that this angel whom Jacob wrestled and prevailed against, is "a person of the Godhead" implies that this "person of the Godhead" is not Almighty. How can the idea of fighting the Almighty and prevailing be justified?

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    +1 Either God is invisible as we are told or He is not. If He is, then anytime He is encountered, it must be something other that fully represents God - an angel His logos, His spirit, a cloud, a glorification etc. Sadly no amount of scripture when rightly expressed or any sensible logic can sway those who cannot yet understand the simple facts.
    – Steve
    Sep 6, 2022 at 8:03
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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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    I like this answer as well. +1.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5, 2022 at 21:52
  • Can God still be called Almighty if man, whom he created, can wrestle and prevail against Him. Sep 5, 2022 at 22:57
  • God let him win. I could go on at length but suffice to say he wished to inspire Jacob with courage, so that he could not only stand up to Esau but also inspire the Israelites who would come after him. The wrestling match was “about” Jacob securing a blessing for the future nation of Israel. Ask that and I’ll answer it (“What did the wrestling match mean?”). Sep 9, 2022 at 3:53

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