We’re going through the OT and looking at the appearances of God and/or the Angel of the Lord. In Genesis 32, we come across an account of Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. When he had fled from Esau earlier, it was because Esau had planned to kill him.
Now he knows that Esau is ahead of him and before too long, he’s going to be reunited with his brother. That death threat is still hanging over his head as far as he knows and so, he sends everyone ahead of him and he stays behind on the edge of the river.
While he is there, a man shows up. We are not told anything about this man. We are just told that he is a man. What happens? Jacob and this man wrestle against each other all night long. As the sun began to rise, the man saw he could not overpower Jacob.
What does the man do then? He touches the socket of Jacob’s thigh and dislocates it. While wrestling all through the night is quite a feat of endurance, the man’s ability to do this by just a touch points to some greater power at work here.
Jacob still keeps a hold on this man though and the man finally asks to be let go. Jacob refuses and tells him that he will not let the man go until he blesses him. I have no reason to doubt that Jacob knew this man was divine in some way.
The man asks Jacob what his name is. It’s a question of identity. It’s quite interesting that this happens the day before Jacob goes to meet Esau. Jacob had to think back to a time when someone else asked him who he was.
It was back in Genesis 27. Jacob was wanting to steal the blessing from Esau and so he went to his father who was blind while he had on some fur to make his Dad think that he was Esau. Isaac asked who he was as he couldn’t see and Jacob had answered “I am Esau.”
This time, he said “I am Jacob.” What does Jacob mean? Deceiver. Cheat. That was what Jacob had done after all and God would certainly know that. This time though, Jacob had lived up to what he had done and admitted his nature. He was a cheat.
He is then told that his name will be Israel, because he had wrestled with God and won. It is at that point that Jacob calls the place “Peniel.” Israel refers to one who struggles with God. Peniel refers to the face of God. Jacob realized that he had seen God face to face, and he had lived.
Do we have any other information on who this guy was?
In Hosea 12:4, we read this:
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there-
So again, I see this as the Angel of the Lord, and yet, Jacob says he saw God. If you watch and see how our theory is building up, this does fit in with the idea that the Father has not been seen, and yet God is seen. The way to explain this is what the doctrine of the Trinity explains. The Son was there and while pre-incarnate, we will get to the point where the Word does become flesh.