Tuesday, December 30, 2014

With Whom Did Jacob Wrestle?

I had a dialogue with one Catholic gentleman three years ago. He tried to argue that the writer of Genesis did not clarify the identity of Jacob's wrestling partner. Was it God himself or an angel of God? I replied (in part):

It is best not to read biblical texts at face value as they are rendered in English. There are a number of textual and interpretive issues linked with Hosea 12:3-5. However, nothing that you quote contravenes what I've said thus far. The Hebrew word for God can be applied to YHWH or to the messenger (Malak) of YHWH. For instance, Ehud Ben Zvi explains that the construction you quote could mean "a messenger [of God]" strove and was victorious over Jacob. He points out that Hosea's choice of EL in verse 5 could point to "a god/divine being" who is identified as the "messenger of God." If this interpretation holds, then there is no conflict between the prophet speaking about an angel wrestling with Jacob and Jacob reportedly seeing God. http://books.google.com/books?id=Bgoqgbudg9EC&pg=PA246&dq=hosea+12:3&hl=en&ei=IVsnTaHgFcH-8AbIpNXrAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hosea%2012%3A3&f=false

The more I research the account in Genesis 32 anyway, the more it appears that the evidence suggest Jacob did wrestle with a spirit creature (i.e. an angel). See Genesis 32:1-2. Moreover, some commentators argue that Jacob had a vision when he contended with the "man" or angel, similar to the ladder vision that he beheld in a dream earlier.

The Catholic NAB has these footnotes on Genesis 32:

"Some man: a messenger of the Lord in human form, as is clear from Genesis 32:29,-31"

"Israel: the first part of the Hebrew name Yisrael is given a popular explanation in the word sarita, 'you contended'; the second part is the first syllable of elohim, 'divine beings.' The present incident, with a similar allusion to the name Israel, is referred to in Hosea 12:5, where the mysterious wrestler is explicitly called an angel."

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