Did Yaakov Wrestle With The Angel Of The L-rd? ©

Parshas Vayishlach
Bereishis 32:4 - 36:43

By Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

This study is offered in the loving memory of Fredrica Ann Brown, may she rest in peace.

Two weeks past we studied Parshas Toldos {Bereishis 25:19 - 28:9}. There we established that Eisov and Yaakov were 63 when Eisov married the daughter of Yismael and Yaakov fled from his brother Eisov. Then in Parshas Vayeitzei {Bereishis 28:10 - 32:3}, in our parsha study entitled A Place And A Time, we learned that Yaakov was 77 years old when he arrived at his Uncle Lavan’s home after studying 14 years at the Yeshiva of Shem and Eiver. Now we jump forward 20 years. Yaakov completes his labor of seven years for Lavan’s oldest daughter. Yaakov completes his labor of seven years for Lavan’s youngest daughter Rochel and his labor of six years for Lavan’s cattle.

It was immediately after this that Hashem instructed Yaakov, And said Hashem to Yaakov, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your birthplace. I will be with you.’ {Bereishis 31:3} Yaakov called his wives and said, An angel of G-d said to me in a dream,


And I said, ‘Behold’.

The malach {angel} delivered a message to Yaakov from Hashem. The malach said in behalf of the Creator, ...I am the Alm-ghty of Bayt - Ehl {Bethel} there where you anointed a monument, there where you made a vow to Me. Now, stand up! Get out of this land and return to the land of your birthplace. Bereishis 31:13

Only Yaakov knew of his experience twenty years earlier. Yaakov at some point shared this message with his wives. As a result the three of them understood this message was from Hashem. They immediately forsook Lavan and began their journey towards Yitzchok. At that time Yaakov was ninety-seven years old.

We move a little further ahead in Yaakov’s Torah history. Lavan has overtaken Yaakov, his wives, servants and cattle as they were fleeing Lavan and returning to Yitzchok. During their discussion, Yaakov clearly states he was with Lavan 20 years. See Bereishis 31.38.

How do we know that Yaakov was 97 when he departed Lavan’s house?
Yoseif was six at the time Yaakov departed Lavan’s house. Yoseif stood before Pharaoh when he was thirty years old. {Bereishis 41:46} Then nine years passed. There were seven years of good {Bereishis 41:53} and two years of famine {Bereishis 45:6}. Yoseif was now thirty-nine years old when his father Yisroel {Yaakov} and he were reunited. It was at this time that Yaakov visited Pharaoh at the age of 130. Now deduct 39 years - Yoseif’s age - and 14 years of service {labor} for Leah and Rochel, and you have Yaakov’s age when he arrived at Lavan’s home. He was 77. He served Lavan 20 years. Therefore Yaakov was 97 when he began his return to Yitzchok.

Now we move ahead to the place where Yaakov is wrestling with a malach. For over 3,500 years the Jewish interpretation of this passage has been the same.

From night until daybreak Yaakov, a 97-year old man, wrestled with the man. Ha Torah states, And He, Yaakov, withdrew until he was alone and he wrestled with a man {eesh} until the rise of daybreak... Bereishis 32:25 Classmates, this struggle was not just a few hours long as one might think. It was actually a 97-year struggle that began in the womb of Rivkah, the mother of Eisov and Yaakov. Ha Torah says, The children clashed inside her. Bereishis 25:22

Now as Yaakov and the man wrestled there was no hitting or punching until daybreak when the man concludes he cannot defeat Yaakov. Then in desperation the man strikes the socket of Yaakov’s hip permanently crippling him for the remainder of his life. Yet the man could not break away from Yaakov’s grasp. Who was it that could not break away from Yaakov’s grip? Isn’t this interesting that ever since birth Eisov was the one trying to escape from Yaakov’s grip? {Bereishis 25:26}.

Now after wrestling an entire night and after delivering a crippling blow to Yaakov, the man pleads, Let me go, for the dawn is raising. The man was powerless. He could not escape Yaakov’s grasp. He realized Yaakov’s determination.

He {Yaakov} said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me
{PAST TENSE IN HEBREW}. In other words, Yaakov was saying to Eisov’s guardian angel {the man}, I will not let you go until you concede the blessings {for which Eisov contended, Bereishis 27:36} with which my father has already blessed me. THE BLESSING HAD ALREADY HAPPENED! The Zohar explains that had Yaakov been requesting a blessing {present tense} he would have used the wording Tih Vay Rah Chay Nee meaning bless me {now}. However Yaakov used the word Bay Rahch Taw Nee which is past tense meaning the blessing had already happened.

What was the concession that Eisov’s guardian angel made? Originally Eisov said, Is he not called Yaakov because he deceived and beat me twice? He took everything from Aleph to Tav of my birthright and behold now he has taken my blessing. In other words Yaakov’s name represents that he deceived and outwitted me, is correct.

As a result, Eisov’s guardian angel {the man} conceded with these words,
no longer will Yaakov be spoken or witnessed as your name {referring to the deception his brother accused him of}, for in this case [it is] Yisrael. The man was saying now your name will be spoken of as Yisroel {the one who obtained the blessings of our father through nobility...}. Why? For you have contended with rulers {Eisov’s guardian angel} and with men {Eisov and Lavan}, and you have won.

And Yaakov named the place Peniel {G-d’s Face}, 'For I have seen G-d{ly beings} Angels face to face.' Bereishis 32:31

And said Yaakov [to Eisov] ‘Please no! If I have found favor in your eyes then take the gift from my hand for on your yes I have seen your face and it was like seeing the face of a G-d[ly] being; and you have received me favorably. {Bereishis 33:10} From this comment in Ha Torah we make the connection that Yaakov defined Eisov’s guardian angel as a G-dly being. Because he clearly says, Seeing your face is like seeing the face of a G-dly being.

In this passage there is an interesting usage of the word Elokim {G-d} as G-d in the attribute of judgment. Yet we must also remember the exact same name is used in reference to angels, rulers and judges. In this passuk the word Elohim is not intended to mean G-d. In this instance it is all right to actually write the word Elohim. Why? It is not used to make reference to the Creator. Here Elohim is in reference to Eisov’s guardian angel.

Later in Ha Torah we read, G-d said to him [Yaakov] ‘Your name Yaakov, will no longer be called your name or witnessed as Yaakov, for in this case Yisrael will be your name. And He [G-d] called everything form Aleph to Tav of his name Yisroel. I am Alm-ghty Shaddai. Be fruitful and increase, as a nation and an as an assembly of nations. And from you kings will come out of your loins. And everything from Aleph to Tav of the land that I gave to Avraham and Yitzchok, I will give to you; and to your descendants after you I will give everything from Aleph to Tav of the land. Bereishis 35:10 - 12

From this we see several very important decrees: One is Yaakov’s name is changed to Yisroel. This is a confirmation of Eisov’s guardian angel. The second is the inheritance of the land possessed by Eisov would be forfeited by Eisov and his descendants, this being confirmed by Hashem. We see this transpiring when Ha Torah states, And he {Eisov} went to a land away from his brother Yaakov. Bereishis 36:6

Now for a few facts:
First, the struggle was from conception between Eisov and Yaakov.

Second, Yaakov’s grasp on his brother Eisov began before birth and concluded after Eisov’s guardian angel conceded the blessing.

Third, the concession by Eisov’s guardian angel was the essence by which Yaakov would be spoken of in the future. This was the admission that Yitzchok’s blessing to Yaakov was not by deception but was by divine order. At first it may have appeared deceptive but the conclusion proves that it was by divine order.

Fourth, G-d’s confirmation of Eisov’s guardian angel’s concession, ‘Your name is changed from one meaning deceitful, i.e., Yaakov, to one meaning nobility, royalty and honor, i.e., Yisroel.’

Fifth, Hashem gives the land to the descendants of Yisroel. Shortly thereafter, for whatever reason, Eisov relinquishes the land as recorded in Ha Torah by moving to Mt. Seir.

Sixth, for Christians / Messianics the word angel is never used in this passage.

Seventh, for Christians / Messianics, the words Angel of the L-rd are never used in this passage. So for them it is incorrect to say Yaakov wrestled with ‘the Angel of the L-rd.’
In no way does Ha Torah suggest or support such a teaching! The concept that Yaakov wrestled with the angel of Hashem and that this angel was a manifestation of Jesus in the Old Testament is an incredible stretch because it has ZERO BASIS. Why? Notice Bereishis 33:10 where Yaakov states, I have seen your face and it was like seeing the face of a G-d.

Was Eisov G-d? No! Yet the same word, Elohim, that Ha Torah used to describe what Yaakov saw and experienced in Bereishis 32:29 and 31 is used here in Bereishis 33:10. None of these usages were in reference to G-d. Ha Torah states in Bamidbar 23:19
G-d is not a man... Our Creator is not a physical man! G-d is not born of a woman!

Finally, it should be noted that even though Ha Torah makes it very clear that Yaakov wrestled only with Eisov’s guardian angel, Ha Torah uses the words Eem Elokim {G-dly beings} in Bereishis 32:29. Does this usage of Eem Elokim mean that there were more than one G-dly being present? No! Does it mean Yaakov exaggerated? No! This is a clear example where Ha Torah uses plural words in a singular sense! Just as Yaakov wrestled with only one being it is also clear that there is only One G-d even though plural words are used at times in Ha Torah!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva Gamliel Belk

Written in 5760
Updated in 5764

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