Email 32

Here’s yet another question: Genesis 32:24-32, when Jacob “wrestled a man” until the breaking of the day– I was taught that the man Jacob wrestled with was the LORD, for it was Him that told Jacob that his name was to be Israel, and Jacob goes on to name the place they wrestled Peniel because he had “seen God face to face” and survived. My questions about this are:
1) why isn’t (according to the KJV) “he” or “him” written as “He” or “Him” when pertaining to the LORD?
2) why did [H]e say to Jacob, “Let me go, for the day breaketh”?
and 3) why did they wrestle?


Dear Meg:
First, the traditional Jewish answer:

The translation is from the Hebrew Bible but you can match up the verses with your KJV.

The rabbis explained that the man with whom Jacob wrestled was the guardian angel of Esau (Rashi) in the guise of a man. The Sages teach that every nation has an angel (a power) that guides its destiny on earth. Esau became a nation and the eternal enemy of Israel. These powers are an intermediary between G-d and the nations. However, Israel needs no intermediary and may go to G-d directly. Jacob because his image is engraved upon G-d’s throne of Glory symbolizes man’s highest potential. Esau’s guardian angel (demon angel) is different from all the others for just as Esau epitomizes evil, so his angel the prime spiritual force of evil, Satan himself.

Satan descends and seduces man to sin then he ascends to incite G-d, by prosecuting man for his sinfulness and then he receives permission to take man’s life. The Angel of Esau had to attack Jacob because as the last and greatest Patriarch, Jacob’s symbolized man’s struggle to raise himself and the rest of the world with him, and Satan exists to cripple that effort. Therefore, the battle between Jacob and the “man” was the eternal struggle between man’s capacity to perfect himself, and Satan’s determination to destroy him spiritually.

V. 24-“and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn” the sages say that an angel was dispatched to Jacob to pave the way for ultimate salvation of Jacob and his descendents. Just as Jacob was temporarily injured in the struggle, he prevailed and went on to greater accomplishments. Likewise, the Jewish people would suffer losses in the future but would prevail and emerge with even greater accomplishments and blessings.

“until the break of dawn” interpreted as the angel of evil who will fight Jacob’s descendents throughout history, until the dawn of salvation.

v. 27- “let me go for dawn has broken.” The Jewish sages explain that the angel asked to be let go for it was his turn to sing G-d’s praises as part of the heavenly chorus, but Jacob insisted on receiving the angel’s blessing before he would let him go. This blessing by the guardian angel of Esau was an acknowledgement that Jacob was entitled to Isaac’s blessings (Rashi). Rhetorically, the angel asked Jacob’s name in order to introduce his statement of blessing. Then the angel declared, “it will no longer be said that you deserve the name Jacob which implies heel, deceit, because you obtained the blessings deceitfully, as Esau had charged in 27:36, instead Jacob would receive the additional name Israel meaning prevailing, superiority. From then on, it would be acknowledged that he received the blessings because he had prevailed and demonstrated he was more deserving then Esau (Rashi).

You mentioned Peniel, and it is rendered Penuel, which literally means “face of G-d.” This is because the angel had no power to grant a blessing on his on, but acting as G-d’s agent it was as if Jacob was face to face with G-d, metaphorically.

That is the Jewish interpretation of this section.

My belief is that the Angel was a theophany, a pre-incarnate visitation of Yahshua. Elsewhere in the Bible, such visitations identifying Him as the Angel of G-d lends credence to this interpretation. During the Exodus YHVH warns the Hebrews not to anger or disobey this Angel for He has G-d’s name in Him, and the power to judge sins and exact punishment, powers delegated to G-d only. This would lead us to believe that this angel is not a messenger but a manifestation of G-d himself. Abandoning some of the ideas of the rabbis, the scenario they paint as to the purpose seems valid with the addition that Jacob was tried as was Abraham in the Akeda (sacrifice of Isaac-G-d knew Abraham would obey Him, but Abraham did not, and it was a test respectively to build trust)

The references to the KJV inclusion of the pronouns he, him, do not appear in the Hebrew manuscript. The translators put these pronouns in of their own accord. Probably to make it more readable, but it is not in the original manuscript. This leaves the question moot. You may have noticed that many times LORD is written in capital letters. This indicates YHVH; why not just write YHVH. When it is not capitalized, it is Adonai or Elohim. G-d is sometimes YHVH, Elohim or Adonai. In the English, there is no way to determine which. We might conclude that G-d purposely left out these pronouns because the Angel was a theophany, or the pre-incarnate Yahshua. Nevertheless, the translators included them even though they are not in the manuscript. Unfortunately, translators have included words in the English Bible that have led to false doctrines. That is why it is important to know Hebrew and Koine Greek to fully understand the Bible.

I hope this helps.

Shalom v’brachas, Rabbi Davis (R. Milchamah b. David)