Striving with an Angel

Genesis 32:23-33

Overnight, Jacob rises and crosses the Jabbok river with his family and belongings. Jacob is left alone, however, at some point in the night, and spends the rest of it striving with a mysterious opponent. The two wrestle throughout the night, and Jacob’s opponent cannot overcome him. At daybreak, the mysterious stranger inflicts a serious wound in Jacob’s thigh, yet Jacob does not relent.


The stranger asks Jacob to release him, but Jacob refuses unless his opponent blesses him. The stranger asks Jacob his name, then tells him he shall be henceforth known as Israel, for he has struggled with man and God and has prevailed. When Jacob asks for the stranger’s name, however, he refuses to give it, and Jacob realizes he has met an angel. He calls the place Peniel, meaning Face of God, in recognition of the fact. As a result of Jacob’s injury, his descendants to this day do not eat the sciatic nerve of any four-legged animal.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Jacob asks for a blessing, and we are told instead he is given another name. How can you explain this unusual “blessing”?

Comments ( 11 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Ja’acov asked for a blessing. And got it “on his knees”. Because he could hardly stand. The Angel has hit him on the gied hanasje. That’s our first prohibition to eat. He more or less was on his knees (berechot) and received the Angels beracha.(blessing) The blessing was more or less forced because he would not let Him go. (typically Ja'acov.) On the other side the kneeling of Ja’acov is of course also more or less forced by physical circumstances.

  • I would not call this an unsual blessing, I think it was a blessing just like any other that Yahweh bestows on His children. I think one of the determinants of Yahweh's blessing is how well we petition Him, and also whether it is His timing. I think striving with God (Yahweh) is like intense (well-thought out, petition) prayer which attracts blessing hence the blessing of change of name.

  • I fail to understand this incessant need to equate accounts like this one to the appearance of an "angel". This account in particular only says "a man". Every version I read says nothing different. However, the text of the account says "Elohim". How do we get "angel" out of that? In Gen. 1: 1-2, we have Elohim (YHVH), Elohim (the Son, Aleph/Tav). In v. 2, we have Elohim (Ruach or Spirit of YHVH). Taking Moshe for what he says makes our understanding very simple.

    • It is obvious Jacob wrestled with Elohim. However, there is a problem with that. The account says Jacob saw Elohim "face to face". It is written that to look upon YHVH face to face is to die. Moshe wasn't even allowed to do that. He only saw His backside. Does that mean Jacob was privileged? Maybe so. Although there is no "Aleph/Tav" in connection with the "man", I would think it more likely this Man was the person of the Messiah.
      There are multiples of times elsewhere when the "Aleph/Tav" DOES appear in a position conjunction with or standing alone, and the symbol IS the Messiah. The simplicity of Moshe explicitly and purposefully places the "Aleph/Tav" to reveal the Messiah.

      • Interesting comment DannyLee, most Christians believe that the angel was the Messiah.i understand the Aleph/Tav because Jesus said He was the Aleph n Tav. I did not know it appeared in this scripture. Thank you.

  • I've always been amazed at the weight that is given to the importance of names and their meanings in Scripture. When Elohim bestows a new name on our Father Avraham and his wife Sarai, it is to represent their new status in HIS plans and purposes. I believe that same thing is true here as Y'srael, the name given to Ya'acov represents the Land, the People of Elohim and HIS Kingdom.
    Ya'acov has just officially received recognition from Elohim HIMself as the Patriarch of the Twelve Tribes of Y'srael in accordance with the foreordained plans and purposes that were set from the beginning of time itself.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Ya'acov asked for a blessing and WOW! What a blessing he received. In my desire to identify with the nation and people of Israel, that's why I chose the name, "ben Israel". In that relationship, I am a part of the covenant Elohim gave to Avraham. In faith, I'm persuaded Elohim is able to validate my commitment to Him in the day of His judgment.

  • Herman

    A difficult part. Not for the namegiving: His name was Ja’acov meaning holding on to what you have got (at the birth his brothers heel) Now he held on to the “(S)stranger” He received a new name: “Israël”: the one that had wrestled with the “angel” and won. Israél might also mean: G’d is fighting (for you). It is no longer you that is fighting but G’d will perform this. But I cannot understand that it might be G’d who (BH) fought against Ja’acov. it is also written “a man” then this must be G’d and man? Hoshea 12 speaks about an angel. But an angel has no authority to bless and give names. That’s what only the Holy One can do. Maybe you can give me some hints???? Thanks in advance.

    • The passage is a difficult one, indeed. However, most authorities agree that the “man” in the passage is an angel who *appeared* as a man initially to Jacob, who only afterwards realised he was an angel of God. Thus, the angel was able to bless and rename him. This is not unlike the visitors Abraham receives after his circumcision, whom he perceives as men but who are later (when visiting Lot) described explicitly as angels.

      • Herman

        Sorry Ahuva, but the “angel” said to Ja’acov: “You have wrestled with God”. How can he say this, as “He” is an angel ?

        • That’s true, but the whole quote reads “thou hast striven with God and with men”, so it is not referring exclusively to the wrestling match which has just taken place. Rather, the struggle with the “man” is more symbolic of Jacob’s various struggles with both men and God, or in this case, God’s representative — the angel.

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