In Bereishit 32:31, Yaakov says, "ראיתי אלוקים פנים אל–פנים" after his encounter with the angel. Most commentators, such as Rashi, interpret that when Yaakov says this, he really meant "I have seen [an angel of] Hashem face to face", but why does the Torah (in which everything is significant) show Yaakov saying he saw Elokim as opposed to a malach of Elokim?

  • This seems to be ignoring that דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 27, 2016 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


The word elohim means many things. An angel. A judge. A power (i.e. foreign deity). And also at times Hashem, specifically his powerful judgement atribute. The torah does not specify which it means.

Another instance of this usage is two psukim beforehand according to Targum Yonasan on verse 29.

See also parshas Bereishis chapter 6 vs 2 בני האלהים with Rashi.

Even more shocking is the use of Y.H.V.H. to mean the angel Gavriel, see Rashbam parshas Vayeira chapter 18 verse 14.

And see also Shmos 3:4 in the Ibn Ezra at length concerning the word elohim, and that elohim in that passuk is the aforementioned angel. Same idea in the Rashbam there.

  • 1
    Can you list other instances where Elokim is used in this way?
    – user5540
    Jul 17, 2014 at 16:59
  • 1
    Also, I'm skeptical of this answer, because Rashi and other commentators say that "Elohim" hear means Hashem, but that the phrase [angel of] is omitted.
    – user5540
    Jul 17, 2014 at 17:00
  • Possible explanation - my own?? Perhaps, after Ya'akov won the fight he understood and "Saw" that God, himself had intervened personally to save Ya'akov's life?
    – DanF
    Jul 17, 2014 at 18:02
  • @eliyahu-g- my chumash doesn't have rashi on that passuk and none of commentators in the mikros gidolos seem to explain the phrase at al, let alone the pshat you mentioned which sounds like a chidush. Do you recall where you saw it?
    – user6591
    Jul 17, 2014 at 18:58
  • @user6591 - I also could not locate a Rashi on this, either. However, from what I could glean from Siforno on a later verse which explains the words "The sun arose, and he was limping", he seems to say that only because the sun rose and that helped heal Ya'akov was when he understood that he was dealing with G-d, directly. My Hebrew is pretty good, but up to a point. I had trouble undrestanding completely what Sforno was saying, so my translation could be off, here.
    – DanF
    Jul 17, 2014 at 19:06

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