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The Bible tells of a tale where Jacob wrestled with a Man and he prevailed. And because of this he was named Israel. Scripture refers to him as both Man and God respectively.

Genesis 32:24

And Jacob was left alone. And a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the Man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”.

I was tempted to think it could have been Jesus but Jesus was the word who became flesh for the first time after his immaculate conception according to the Gospel of Saint John

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So what is the identity of this Man in Genesis? Was it an angel?

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    Why do you ask for the identity ? The Person chose not to disclose their name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? Genesis 32:29. But Jacob was certain that he had met with Deity. For I have seen God face to face. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 14:54
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    Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 19:20

7 Answers 7

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The Prophet Hosea answers this question with by equating the man with "an angel":

In the womb he supplanted his brother, and in his vigor he contended with a divine being; He contended with an angel and prevailed, he wept and entreated him. (Hosea 12:4-5)

Based on this, Jewish tradition is clear that the man was an angel. Rabbinical opinion speculates that it was specifically the angel who protected Esau and Edom, where the incident took place. (Gen. R. 77:3)

Rabbi Chama bar Chanina said, "He was the ministering angel of Esau. And that is [what Jacob meant] when he said to [Esau], 'I have seen your face as I saw the face of God and you have accepted me' (Genesis 33:10)... Said Rabbi Berachia, "We do not know who won, whether it was the angel or whether it was Yakov...'

Some Christian commentators hold that the "man" was actually a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity. But others (e.g. Ellicott) disagree, seeing the man as simply a manifestation of God, referencing Hagar's experience in Genesis 16:13. Others speak of the man as the "angel of the covenant." Several, such as Cambridge, are content to leave the question unanswered, as the text itself does.

The brevity of the account leaves it unexplained, who the man is, how he appeared, and how the contest began.

Conclusion: The identity of the "man" with whom Jacob wrestled is unclear. Since Hosea calls him an "angel" - the only definite designation for the "man" in the Bible - the term "angel" should suffice. Beyond that, the answer often depends on one's theological predisposition.

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  • I believe in Hosea'a words. It must have been an angel as other angels took the form of men and slept with the daughters of men to give rise to the Nephilim
    – Dong Li
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 10:24
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    This is all very well and correct to the extent it goes. However, we find that on dozens of occasions, the "Angel of the LORD" and the "Angel of God" is explicitly identified with the LORD Himself, not just in Joshua 5 & 6.
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 12:29
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:46
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The "Man" who wrestled with Jacob was an angel. Angels are often described by the people living in OT times as "אלוהים" i.e. "gods." Thus, Jacob refers to seeing his brother Esau as like seeing the face of "אלוהים." (Genesis 33:10) Obviously, Jacob did not mean the face of G-d because "no man can see Me and live." (Exodus 33:20) Rather Jacob meant the "face of angel."

That the "Man" was an angel is demonstrated even more clearly from story of the birth of Samson in Judges 13. In that story, Manoah's wife (Samson's mother) is expressly visited by "an Angel of G-d" to tell her of the upcoming conception of her son who would be a Nazarite. (Judges 13:3) Manoah's wife initially believes the angel is just a holy man, with the "appearance of an angel." (Judges 13:6) Later, when the angel steps into the fire and ascends to heaven, Manoah says:

מ֣וֹת נָמ֑וּת כִּ֥י אֱלֹהִ֖ים רָאִֽינוּ

"we will surely die because we have seen "אֱלֹהִ֖ים" (Judges 13:22)

Manoah uses the same word "god" that is used in Genesis 33 but the text is clear that this was not G-d himself but only an angel.

And here's the kicker, when Manoah asks the angel his name, the angel answers:

לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י

Why is this that you are asking for my name? (Judges 13:18)

This is the exact same answer that the "Man" gives to Jacob when Jacob asks the same question in Genesis 32:30: "לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י"

"Elohim" clearly does not necessarily mean G-d himself, but can mean lower divine beings such as angels. Manoah was visited by an angel and Jacob wrestled with one.

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    All you have done is present evidence that the Bible is confused when it calls a being an angel and God at the same time. What of Gen 18?
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 9:30
  • The angel in the bush, the man who fought with Jacob, the angel who went up in the flame before Manoah, the fourth in the burning furnace . . . . . . Can you not see Him ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 20:41
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Christophany The Bible records several pre-incarnation, Old Testament appearances of Jesus. Sometimes He is called "the Angel of the Lord" and sometimes just "man." (Judges 6:1-24) Recall that Abraham saw three "men" approaching, but two were just angels, and one was "the Lord." (Genesis 18:1-2)

The "man" that Jacob saw was one of these Christophanies, an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. Even though the narrative begins with calling this person a "man," the concluding statement was:

And Jacob called the name of the place, Peniel, for I have seen God face-to-face, and my life is preserved! (32:30)

The substance of Jesus's body in Old Testament appearances was not just "physical" as in the New Testament Incarnation, (which was quoted in the question, John 1:14). The "Angel of the Lord" is seen floating in the air, appearing in fire, etc. in Old Testament occurrences. So His body was not just a normal physical being.

Notice the response of Jesus to Jacob's question about the Name of this "Man": Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after My Name? (vs.29) Commentators have pointed out that the NAME of Jesus was too glorious, was ineffable, was too amazing for Jacob to comprehend at that time! The Name of JESUS would be given in the New Testament later on by an angel to Mary. (Luke 2:21)

Logical Deduction Jacob himself, who experienced all this, called that place, Peniel, which means "the Face of God." The fact that Jacob was concerned about his "life being preserved" emphasizes the conclusion that it was God (albeit, a Christophany) whom he wrestled with! Not just an angelic spirit being.

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Yes, this is a good question? Let me first address the issue of God cannot be seen with the physical eyes. John 4:24 states that God by His very nature is a spiritual being. God the Father does not have a physical body. This is stated by Jesus Christ Himself at John 6:46, "Not that any man hath seen the Father, except he who is from God, he hath seen the Father."

What this means is the fact that the Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. The Son is the only manifestation and revelation of the Father. What is known of the Father is revealed through the Son. To see the Son is to see the essence of the Father (John 1:1;18; 10:30; 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).

Now, to the identity of the person who wrestled with Jacob. This is going to require some thinking and knowing your Bible. Yes, Jacob wrestled with this man at Genesis 32:24. Skipping down to vs30, "So Jacob named the place Peniel, for (or because) he said, "I have seen God fact to face, yet my life has been preserved." Jacob claims he saw God.

Now go to Genesis 35:9-15. Vs9, "Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddanaram, and He blessed him/Jacob." Jumping to vs13, "The God went up from him in the place where He/God had spoken with him."

Going back to Genesis 16:7, we have the first appearance of the angel of the Lord as the angel of the Lord. "Now the angel of the Lord found her/Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness by the spring on the way to Shur." At vs9, He says I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count." At vs11 the AOL says to her that she is with child, this would be Ishmael.

Going to vs13 Hagar says, "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, "Thou are a God who sees; for she said, Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?" Who else said the same thing at Genesis 33:30?

Genesis 17:1-3, "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless, Vs2, And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly." Vs3, "And Abram fell on his face and God talked with him saying, etc.

This was a physical appearance of the Lord God Almighty and this fact is based on Genesis 17:22, "And when He/God finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. God also went up from Jacob at Genesis 35:13 after He had spoken to him."

Now for Genesis 18:1-2, "Now the LORD appeared to him/Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. Vs2, And when he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he say them he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth. This is an appearance of the AOL and with him were two actual angels. This to was a physical appearance because Abraham offered them bread and water to clean themselves.

The proof that the AOL is the preincarnate Jesus Christ before He incarnated as a man permanently we have to go to Genesis 22. This is where the Lord ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. At Genesis 22:11, the AOL calls out from heaven and says, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, Here I am." Vs12, He said do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me." Genesis 22:15-17, "Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven.

Vs16,"By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord because you have done this thing, and not withheld your son, your only son, vs17, indeed I will greatly bless you and I will greatly multiply your seed as he stars of the heavens, and the sand which is on the seashore; and you seed shall possess the gate of his enemies."

Please notice from vs16 the words "and said." What did the angel of the Lord say? "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord etc." For clarification as to the speaker is we will go to Hebrews 6:13-6.

"For WHEN GOD made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, HE SWORE BY HIMSELF, vs14, saying, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply you." Vs15, And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. Vs16, For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them/men an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute."

Now, some say that the angel of the Lord is an actual angel acting on behalf of God Himself and to do His bidding. It is true that the Jews have what is known as "The Law of Agency" which deals with the status of a person (known as the agent) acting by direction of another (the principal), and thereby legally binding the principal in his connection with a third person. The information I just gave is from the Jewish Law of Agency/a Shaliach found in the Jewish Encyclopedia, page 232.

However, from the Jewish Virtual Library the law of agency most if not all of the time deals with, "laws of mamonot (commercial law), or (heave offering), sacrifices, divorce, and betrothal etc. According to the Tosefta (Kid, 4:1), Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel agreed that a person appointed to carry out a specific mandate is disqualified from acting as a witness in a case involving such mandate. The agent/Shaliach is not regarded as the principal as himself since the agent is disqualified from testifying as a witness.

Swear means to state under oath. Swearing an oath is a matter of one's own conscience, therefore Angels cannot swear oaths on behalf of God Himself and Jesus Christ is not an angel but rather the "messenger of the Lord." Angels cannot multiply descendants but the angel of the Lord multiplied Hagars descendants at Genesis 16:10.

The angel of the Lord appeared in the burning bush at Exodus 3:2-6 and claimed to be God at vs6. He appeared to Joshua at Joshua 5:13-15 and said at Joshua 6:2, "And the Lord said to Joshua I have given you Jerico. At Judges 2:1, the angel of the Lord brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I HAVE SWORN to your fathers, and said I will never break My covenant."

To be sure, I could give many more references where the angel of the Lord intervened on behalf of Isarael and its people as a mediator. Lastly, there is Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me, And the LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts." Who do you think this is? Also read Luke 1:68-79. As a side note, the angel of the Lord never appears in the New Testament as the angel of the Lord, although He is mentioned by Stephen at Acts 7.

The Hebrew word for angel is "malak." It means "Messenger, Sent One, Angel. The context determines how it is used. At Malachi 3:1, God says, I am going to send My angel/messenger, and he will clear the way before Me" This is referring to John the Baptist and John is not an angel. Continuing on with the verse, "And the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple;" This is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Continuing on. and the malak/angel/messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts." This is referring to "THE" angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ who is not an angel but the "messenger" of the Lord in the OT. As a side note, the prophet Malachi, (a human being) well his name is from the word "malak/messenger." Human prophets are messengers as well and are not actual angels.

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The problem with the question is its explicit assumption (to be shown incorrect shortly) that Jesus became "flesh" first in Bethlehem. It is true that Jesus was first-born in Bethlehem; however, it is equally true that He became flesh in at several other occasions:

Occasion #1 - Gen 18

On 12 occasions in Gen 18 (V1, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 29, 33), we are told that one of the visitors to Abraham was YHWH = the LORD Jehovah Himself who ate a meal that Sarah had prepared.

Occasion #2 - Gen 32

In the incident with Jacob, we are told that he wrestled with a "man" (V24) who was also "God" as per V28, & 30.

Occasion #3 - Josh 5 & 6

When Joshua met the "Commander of the LORD's Army", we are again told that this person was to holy that Joshua had to

  • fall face down in worship before this person
  • remove his sandals out of reverence (Josh 5:15)
  • that it was the LORD, Jehovah Himself as per Josh 6:2
  • according to Rev 19:10 and 22:8, 9, one should not bow before an angel!

Many more could be cited but this illustrates the point that God has appeared in flesh before being born in Bethlehem. Such occasions have been "Christophanies" by many commentators.

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Who was the Man Jacob wrestled with at Peniel?

Interestingly, this encounter between Jacob and the man/angel does not mention "the angel of the Lord" Despite this, others claim that this is "the angel of the LORD".

God had said "for no man shall see Me and live" and if we take God's and Jesus' words to be true, John 17:17, how can we examine Jacob's and other men's statements "claiming to have seen God and lived". without contradicting it and postulating an idea that is not there?

Claiming to have seen God statements contradict what God has said. Others cite verses like the verse in this question and say that God has been seen.

Examining the contradictory statements proves that the contradictory claims are erroneous. Jacob, Manaoah and others who claimed to have seen God but did not die proves that it was the angel whom they saw and not God. Acts 7:30, 35 and 38 also show us that Stephen preached that it was the angel that appeared and spoke to Moses. Thus, it was not God or Jesus who appeared to Moses.

Insisting for the opposite of what God has said could be taken to mean that others view some of God's words to be untrue, thereby discrediting God to justify ourselves Job 40:8, in this case, our answers or comments.

Moreover, even if this angel is the angel of the LORD, we find in Judges 13:16 that the angel of the LORD clearly distinguishes himself from the Lord, for he said.

And the angel of Jehovah said unto Manoah, though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread; and if thou wilt make ready a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto Jehovah. For Manoah knew not that he was the angel of Jehovah.

Thus, burnt offering must be offered to Jehovah, not to the angel of Jehovah.

The body of the question also states that "Scripture refers to him as both Man and God respectively.

The question does not explicitly state why the letter M for Man is capitalized and the letter G for God is capitalized in the body of the question. One wonders whether the orthographic rules of capitalization were violated here.

Granting, this angel/man is God, why did the man ask Jacob his name? Wouldn’t God already know it? God knows the name of every star in the galaxy, but this man who others assume is Jehovah God/Jesus does not know Jacob's name.

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.

Compared to the angel of the LORD in 2 Kings 19:35 where he killed 185000 in one night, this man/angel of the verse in question wrestled until the breaking of the day but did not prevail against Jacob. How can this man/angel then be considered God when this man, despite wrestling all night against Jacob, lost?

It seems that the angel of the LORD in 2 Kings 19:35 is a lot more powerful than the man/angel that Jacob wrestled against.

If the bible speaks of only one true God, Deuteronomy 6:4 and John 17:3 who also is the Almighty, Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8, and Jeremiah 32:17, and some assert that this man/ angel that Jacob wrestled against is the God/Jehovah/Jesus Himself, how can Jacob wrestle and prevail against the Almighty God? What reasonable and truthful explanations support the assertion that the angel/man is God/Jehovah/Jesus himself?

To say that this angel whom Jacob wrestled and prevailed against, is "Man/God/Jehovah/Jesus" implies that this "person is not almighty. How can the idea of fighting the almighty God and prevailing against Him be justified?

Let us examine the reasons of others who claim that it is what they call a Christophany using the following to support their claim.

  1. One of Abraham's visitors in Genesis 18 is Jehovah/Jesus Himself

But how can Jesus be Jehovah himself? How can he be the Father/God and also be the Son of God? Micah 5:4 ASV says.

And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God: and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth

  1. The wrestling incident in Genesis 32 where the man/ angel was God/Jesus himself.

Granting without accepting that this is true, this shows that Jacob prevailed against Jesus. Such a claim also shows that the angel was, 1. a man/2. angel/3.Jehovah and 4. Jesus, 3 persons collapsed into the 4th person.

  1. Joshua. 5,6: Revelation 19:10, 22:8-9 not bowing before an angel.

Joshua bowing before the angel/commander of the LORD's host does not make this angel God.

The Hebrew word often translated "worship" is shachah, and it is usually rendered as proskuneo in Greek. Shachah ... 'to worship, prostrate oneself, bow down.' And, "The act of bowing down in homage done before a superior [in rank] or a ruler. Thus David 'bowed' himself [shachah] before Saul (1 Sam. 24:8). Sometimes it is a social or economic superior to whom one bows, as when Ruth 'bowed' [shachah] to the ground before Boaz (Ruth 2:10)." - Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, 1980, Thomas Nelson Publ., p. 482.

Just because somebody shachah/proskuneo somebody does not automatically make the person receiving shachah/proskuneo God.

Jesus did not advocate idolatry when he said he would give the authority to some of his followers to be worshipped,

Revelation 3: 9.KJV

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

The same thing is shown in Isaiah 45:14 where some would bow down and make supplications to followers of Jehovah. Despite being the recipient of proskuneo/worship/respect and supplication, which others use as proof of "Deity", does not prove that these men are equally God.

Isaiah 45:14 Brenton Septuagint Version

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Egypt has laboured for thee; and the merchandise of the Ethiopians, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall pass over to thee, and shall be thy servants; and they shall follow after thee bound in fetters, and shall pass over to thee, and shall do obeisance to thee, and make supplication to thee: because God is in thee; and there is no God beside thee, O Lord

Others use Revelation 19: 10 and Revelation 22:8-9 where the angel stopped John from giving him proskuneo/ worship.

Why? Because the angel told John that he was a fellow servant with John. His position was the same as John's, not higher.

Jesus himself worship/proskuneo to the Father because the Father is superior to him. John 17:3, Micah 5:4; 1 Cor. 11:3; 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3, 17; 1 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 3:12. However, the Father/YHWH does not worship/proskuneo/shacah to any person.

Therefore, we must not call the angel of the LORD, or the man/angel that Jacob wrestled against/Jesus by the Most High God's positional title ("The Most High God," "The Only True God," - Jn 17:1, 3), nor by God's relational title ("The Father" - Matt. 23:9; Is. 64:8, ASV), nor by his Father's individual personal name ("Jehovah" or "Yahweh" - Ps. 83:18; Ps 110:1; Is. 63:16; Micah 5:4,)

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Why could it not have been the incarnate Jesus, resurrected from the dead, and ascended to heaven; then coming back in time to the time limited created world from a timeless heaven? Can not God see the past, present, and future realities of our existence from Heaven? He is more than capable of entering into our world at any time as the incarnate Word of God. This seems like the most logical explanation to me.

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