As you read the book of Genesis, there are many hidden reasons behind the words of Moses that you have to dig a little deeper to find out the true meaning, and not take the words at face value. One of these passages is Genesis 32: 22-32. In this passage, Moses talks about how Jacob slept and wrestled with a “man.” I want to dive a little deeper and talk about who this “man” could be and what it meant for Jacob to wrestle with him and to be blessed by him. The reason I chose this question as my next topic of discussion is that a friend recently asked my opinion of this subject matter, and so I am going to dive a little deeper and find out differing opinions to help form my own.
Many times through out the Old Testament, God, or a part of God, manifests Himself in a human or majestic form. John Calvin states in his commentary that “Moreover, it is not said that Satan, or any mortal man, wrestled with Jacob, but God Himself: to teach us that our faith is tried by Him, and whenever we are tempted, our business is truly with Him...”1 Calvin states that he believes that the “man” that Moses stated here is actually God manifested in human form. The reason for his thinking this is that Calvin states that God is testing the faith of Jacob. Not just the physical strength of Jacob, but the faith strength of Jacob. Before this passage, Jacob was about to reconcile with his brother, and God wanted to be sure that Jacob was prepared for this task. Jacob had run his whole life; from responsibilities, from his family, and from God. Now he was about to try and make everything right, and God, in the form of this “man” was testing Jacob and his resolve.
However, Molen states that it may be a variety of people. Molen states that the “man” in this passage could be either “God, Esau or somehow both.”2 He states in his journal that the “man” in this passage could have been an incarnation of Jacob's fears of visiting Esau, and Jacob was literally fighting the demons within himself while dreaming, and this could have caused this injury. He goes on to state that it could have been God that sent the image of Esau to fight Jacob, in preparation of seeing Esau for the first time in many years after their dispute.
The third opinion I found was that on Wesley when he stated that the “man” that wrestled with Jacob was that of an “...angelic being. Rather it was the angel of the covenant, who often appeared in human shape, before he assumed the human nature.”3 The Angel of the Covenant means that he was a theophany, or Jesus Christ before taking human form. Often in the Old Testament there are cases of theophanies, which are appearances of the Christ in the Old Testament.
I would have to agree with this last opinion. Many times in the Old Testament, an angel of the Lord appeared and made Himself known to man. He would often guide people and give them direction or blessings. Many question if this Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the existence of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, or if it is the Christ. Well, I agree it could be both. The Holy Trinity has always existed, and the son and Holy Spirit existed before Christ appeared in the New Testament. He just came in human form in the New Testament. One thing that seems to be a common opinion though is that this “man” came to help Jacob battle his demons before meeting up with his brother Esau. This is just another example of the Lord being with those that don't deserve him. Me, I am thankful for a loving and forgiving God that is always there for me no matter what I am battling.