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Who Wrestled with Jacob?

Who wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32?

In Genesis 32:22–32, we find Jacob alone at night. Then the Bible says, in a nondescript way, that “a man wrestled with him [Jacob] till daybreak” (v. 24). Notice that the text does not say that Jacob wrestled with a man, but that a man wrestled with Jacob.

This all-night wrestling match seemed to end with no clear winner. Then the unnamed assailant touched Jacob’s hip socket and dislocated his hip! No doubt this was a very painful and crippling experience. As the episode comes to a close, some of the ambiguous fog surrounding the identity of this man is lifted, revealing in subtle glimpses that the man who wrestled with Jacob was none other than God Himself (Gen. 32:30). Yet we still have a sense that in some way God was hidden during this encounter. The fact that before God touched Jacob’s hip, the match was a draw (v. 25) was due to the incredible and unspeakable humility of God. Imagine the humility of the triune God of the universe condescending to engage in a wrestling match with a mere mortal! Certainly this was not merely for sport but was intended for Jacob’s sanctification and growth. What a wonderful God we serve!

BY Dr. Winfred O. Neely

Dr. Winfred Neely is Vice President and Dean of Moody Theological Seminary and Graduate School. An ordained minister, Winfred has served churches across the city of Chicago, the near west suburbs, and Senegal, West Africa. He is the author of How to Overcome Worry (Moody Publishers) and a contributor to the Moody Bible Commentary and Moody Handbook of Preaching. Winfred and his wife Stephne have been married for forty years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

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