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Did Jacob wrestle with God, an angel or a man?

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People often point to contradictions in the Bible as a reason to say it is unreliable. While some passages may appear to contradict on the surface, if we study and dig deeper, God's word provides a clear understanding which is often lost in translations from the original language. For instance, in Genesis 32:24 we read that a man wrestled with Jacob until daybreak, but a few verses later Jacob says, "I have seen God face to face." To further complicate our understanding, in Hosea 12:4 it says, "he wrestled with an angel and prevailed." So did Jacob wrestle with God an angel or man? The answer is clear and may surprise you.

  • Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak (Genesis 32:24).
  • So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved (Genesis 32:34)
  • Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel (Hosea 12:4).

Did Jacob wrestle with God, an angel, or man?

When we see the English world LORD in the Bible it represents the Tetragrammaton YHWH; a Hebrew word for the divine name of Yahweh. Unfortunately, the English loses the specificity God intended in the original Hebrew which conveyed a clear spiritual understanding of the Godhead at work. For instance, in the references to a man, God, and angel as the one wrestling with Jacob, the terms are not contradictory but are an example of God at work in his various forms. For example, in Genesis 32 we see Jacob wrestled with Davar YHWH or in our vernacular, a God man of YHWH. In Hosea, the name used is Mal'ak YHWH, the heavenly messenger of YHWH referring to a spiritual form.

Just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one, YHWH, Davar YHWH, and Mal'ak YHWH are one. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deut. 6:4).

Digging deeper

By the time the apostle John wrote the gospel of John, Greek was the language used. In the first chapter of John, he wrote:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Likewise in the book of Revelation wrote:

He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God (Rev. 19:13).

In these verses, Logos is the Greek term for Word. The Hebrew counterpart is "Davar." Throughout Scripture we find YHWH, the Davar YHWH, and Mal'ak YHWH taking credit for the same things. It is not a discrepancy, but another proof that God exits in three persons. So who did Jacob wrestle?

When we look at Scripture with an understanding based on the original language we see that Jacob heard, saw, and touched Yeshua (Jesus). – Thane Langille author of The River Jordan, The Stones of Abraham and the Deity of the Messiah seminar

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