Did Jacob Wrestle With An Angel Or God?


‘That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So, Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered. Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’ Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there. So, Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’ The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore, to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.’ Genesis 32:22-32

This is surely one of the most amazing and yet very complex text within the Scriptures. This is Jacob’s last night on his own on this side of the place but notice that Jacob wrestled with a man until daybreak.

Notice that when Jacob was wrestling with the man, his hip was dislocated, this was to be a permanent reminder to him of this occasion. Kind of like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.

Despite having a dislocated hip, Jacob doesn’t give up and continues to wrestle with the very person he wanted a blessing form. Jacob is determined not to let go of the man, he openly admits his name is Jacob which means deceiver and because he wouldn’t give up his name was changed to Israel which means, ‘he struggles with God’.

A name change usually signifies a change of identity and character. When his name is mentioned as Jacob from now on, this is an indication that he’s returning to his old self. When his name is mentioned as Israel from now on, this is an indication that his mind is set on God.

I’m sure we’ve all had times when we struggle in prayer with God to bless us or others around us. Jacob didn’t know exactly who he was struggling with, whether it an angel of God in the flesh but he does name the place, ‘Peniel,’ which means ‘face of God’. He possibly named it this because he didn’t know the man’s name. This is the first memory from God to Jacob.

Not only was his hip dislocated in order for him to remember the occasion, it is dislocated to remind him that this whole wrestling match was real and not some kind of dream of vision. Notice that Jacob now had a limp, this is the second constant reminder from God, the tendon would not be touched.

Who is this man?

Some believe it was God in human form, the Son of God, and others believe it was an angel. Let’s break the text down and look at these two possibilities and then you can make up your own mind.

An Angel

Notice that although Jacob asked for name, the man didn’t give him one. It seems that Jacob came to the conclusion that the man he wrestled with was actually God because, this man knew everything about his past and because he damaged his hip joint with a single touch.

‘In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favour. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there— the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name!’ Hosea 12:3-5

Now notice the parallel’s here, Jacob struggled with God, but he struggled with the angel. The way to understand this passage is possibly by reminding ourselves, that the word ‘angel’ means a messenger. As an angel he is a representative of God, which would mean that Jacob wrestled with God’s representative and therefore he wrestled with God.

God in the flesh, the Son of God

When we go back to the Genesis account, we see that Jacob wanted a blessing from the man and wanted to know the man’s name. He received the blessing, but not the name. However, Hosea said that Jacob received the blessing, but found the name of his benefactor in Bethel and it was there it was revealed that the blessing came from the Lord God of hosts, Genesis 35:9-15 / Hosea 12:3-5.

It’s because of these parallels that many people believe that Jacob wrestled with the being known as ‘the angel of the Lord.’ It’s certainly possible that this is God, the Son who interacted with men in the form of an angel.

Notice again, Hosea says he was an angel, Hosea 12:4, and He was God, Hosea 12:3. It’s possible that Hosea 12:5 is a later answer to Jacob’s question, the Lord is His name. So, it’s reasonably possible to believe that Jacob wrestled with God, in the form of a man.


This is one of those areas where we may never come to a definite answer, in the grand scale of things it doesn’t really matter who this person was who was wrestling with Jacob.

This is the turning point of Jacob’s life, he wanted a blessing because he knew now that he needed God. The blessing was the passing of his old life and the coming of his new life. Before any of us can face our enemies, we must first of all, face God.



"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."