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It seems to me that the most plain reading of the passage in Genesis 32:22-32 suggests the man who wrestled with Jacob was somehow God, as crazy or as insane as it may sound. I'm looking for alternative understandings that can make proper sense of verse 30 which says: "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

I understand that the word Elohim that is translated to "God" above can be used to even refer to human beings or angelic creatures. However, I believe God is the correct translation here because Jacob talks about his life being spared in spite of seeing Elohim face to face. We see a similar wording in Exodus 24:9-11 which is irrefutably talking about God. So if Jacob didn't wrestle with God, was he simply wrong in verse 30? And if so, why would the Torah not correct him, knowing that this may be interpreted as a true statement?

There are other examples in the Torah such as Genesis 16 in which we're told explicitly that an angel of God (Mal-ach Adonay) appears to Hagar for example yet Hagar refers to this angel as YHWH and names him (Attah El Roi) meaning You are the God who sees me. There's more examples of this of course. And there's another interesting example in Genesis 22 in which the angel of God who stops Abraham says to him that you have not withheld your son from Me, even though Abraham was about to offer his son to God so here we have this angel speaking as if somehow he himself is God. Thoughts?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:05
  • "Elohim" has been used to refer to people as well. Judges are referred to as "elohim" occasionally.
    – Yehuda
    Nov 12, 2023 at 12:30
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    @Yehuda That's exactly what I've been thinking as well. Genesis 33:10 says that Jacob saw the face of Elohim on Esau's face. Hence, I really see Genesis 32:22-32 has being about Esau.
    – Taylor
    Nov 14, 2023 at 19:37

4 Answers 4

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The verse you quote from Exodus actually disproves your theory. There G-d said

And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for no man shall see me, and live.

yet here Jacob says he saw Elohim face to face. So this would prove that Jacob is referring to an angel, and not G-d.

In the case of the last paragraph, Hagar was speaking to G-d directly, as all humans can. G-d was speaking to her through an angel because she was not a prophetess, but she responded to G-d directly.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:08
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Genesis 32:25-33 is about Esau - there's a number of parallels with him and the entity that wrestles with Jacob.

  1. Jacob wrestles with the "man" (Genesis 32:25). Jacob wrestles with Esau (Genesis 25:22).

  2. The man gets the upper hand by dislocating Jacob's thigh muscle (Genesis 32:26). Esau gets the upper hand by being the first born (Genesis 25:25).

  3. Jacob holds on to the man (Genesis 32:27). Jacob holds on to Esau (Genesis 25:26).

  4. The man is desperate and in danger if he does not get away by dawn (Genesis 32:27). Esau is desperate and in danger if he does not get food (Genesis 25:32).

  5. Jacob insists to the man for the blessing (Genesis 32:27). Jacob insists to Esau for the birthright (Genesis 25:31).

  6. The man is curious about Jacob's name (Genesis 32:28). Esau is curious about Jacob's name (Genesis 27:36).

  7. Jacob's national name (Israel) doesn't completely become his new name (Genesis 32:29). Esau's national name (Edom) doesn't completely become his new name (Genesis 25:30).

  8. The man says that Jacob has prevailed (Genesis 32:29). Esau says that Jacob took his blessing (Genesis 27:36).

  9. Ambiguity of the man (Genesis 32:30). Ambiguity of the first born (Genesis 27:24 & Genesis 27:32).

  10. Jacob sees the face of God on the man (Genesis 32:10). Jacob sees the face of God on Esau (Genesis 33:10).

  11. The nation of Israel limits what they eat (Genesis 32:33). The nation of Edom is defined by its appetite (Genesis 25:30 & Genesis 25:34).

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No. Jacob wrestled with an angel. Or, even better, it was only his dream. He pervades the whole universe and He can't do that with any kind of body. What more proof do you need!

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:08
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When Jacob talks about G-d after wrestling with a man, he was referring to the past, his internal struggle. Nothing more.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 12, 2021 at 3:08

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