Genesis 32 Part II: Wrestling with God

‘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.’ – Hosea 12:4

God wants something from us. For Jacob specifically, He wanted him to let go of his busyness and self-reliance. God always has greater plans in mind, but many times they clash with our own, imperfect human perspectives (Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 29:11; Luke 9:23; Hebrews 13:20-21).

Who was this man Jacob wrestled? Many think it was a created angel of his presence (Isaiah 63:9), while others believe it was Michael, the Lord of the angels. Some even believe this was an appearance of Jesus, as God in human form, before his birth in Bethlehem. This man wrestled with him until daybreak (v. 24). Jacob’s determination to win out over God mirrors our constant stubbornness and our continuous acts of self-reliance. Although the match appeared even in human form, the Man might have won out at any time with supernatural power. Even when we feel like we are winning, or at the very least are in a close match, God can turn the tide any moment, with the slightest touch of a hip (v.25). As a plot twist, God used this moment to strengthen Jacob’s faith, making him realize that being “true to himself” wasn’t going to cut it. His hip was broken with divine touch, but immediately healed by the same form. Jacob continued to wrestle, weak in human form but now strong in his faith, to which the Man responded “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” (v.26). Realizing his own human-strength and self-reliance was not enough, Jacob derived a spiritual strength from Heaven through weeping and prayer. Even after a discouragement during the match, Jacob prevailed by relying on the Lord. The angel might have won, but instead honored Jacob’s faith, discipline, and giving up of self. Jacob knew after this he would be nothing without the Lord’s blessing, and begged for it. It was daybreak, and Jacob had a job to do.

‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.’ – Romans 8:26 

‘That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ – 2 Corinthians 12:10

Jacob asked the Man his name, but he already knew who he was wrestling with, naming the place Peniel, or “the face of God.” Not, “I fought a Man with the appearance of the Lord and won.” We must always remember a denial of self allows God to fight battles with us, instead of against us.

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