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Did Jacob Physically Wrestle with God?

If you've read Genesis 32, you've likely found yourself questioning, "Did Jacob physically wrestle with God?" This is a natural question to have after reading this chapter, and it has amassed many opinions online. 

When I was applying for seminary a friend told me, "I hope that wherever you go, you don't just accept another person's opinion of the bible, but you come to your own conclusion about what you believe." The story of Jacob wrestling God is the first moment where I've had to encounter a lot of opinions and ultimately come up with my own. This is 100% my opinion on the encounter, based on what is available in the bible, and what makes the most sense to me. 

Did Jacob Physically Wrestle with God?

Did Jacob Physically Wrestle with God:

Genesis 32: 24-30 says the following:

24 ...And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

I am a firm believer that the bible often says what it says and we don't need to look for too many contextual clues or overthink details too much to come up with an answer for whether or not Jacob truly wrestled with God. 

Some biblical commentators believe that this was an encounter with Satan as an angel, that Satan gave Jacob a new name, and that Jacob couldn't have overcome a battle with God, and so many details. While that could be the case, I tend to look toward what the text is saying, and to me, it does not seem like this is speaking about a battle with the adversary. 

Jacob Asks "the man" for a Blessing:

The first clue for me is in verse 26 when Jacob asks for the "man" to bless him. I believe that Satan does not have the spiritual gift to bless others. This would mean this would at the least have to be an angel of The Lord, or God himself. 

Did Jacob Physically Wrestle with God?

The Man Says He's God without Saying It:

The second clue is when Jacob asks, "Please tell me your name." The individual responds, "Why is it that you ask my name?" This is another clue to me that points to this being a wrestle with God because there are countless instances in the bible where God and Jesus are asked who they are, and instead of saying who they are, they respond with questions similar to this. Some examples:

In Exodus 3:14 God tells Moses, "I am who I am". In John 33-34, Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews, and Jesus responds by asking, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?". In Matthew 16 Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" There are many references to the bible where this question of "Who are you" is met with another question, or God and Jesus giving a vague response and not coming out and directly answering the question. I see this reference in verse 29 to be no different. 

Jacob Says He Saw God Face to Face:

Lastly, verse 30 clearly says, "So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” He is telling us in this moment that he saw God face-to-face, which is why he named the location of the wrestling, "Peniel". 

People who believe this could have been the adversary make the argument that the man wanted the fight over before the morning because they could only work their evil in the dark. I believe that when you look through the old testament and in the line where Jacob says, "and yet my life has been delivered", I think there was a fear that should Jacob see the Lord's face in the daylight he would die because of the holiness of the Lord. This was a belief held by the people of Israel in Exodus, which is why they did not see the Lord when he was on the mountain because his holiness would have killed those who were not worthy to be in his presence.

In this instance, the fact that Jacob did not die proves his holiness and oneness with God, and that he must have been spiritually on the same level as Moses and others who had seen God for this moment to not have killed him. 

So Did Jacob Physically Wrestle God?

It's my belief that this was in fact a physical altercation, and that it was between God and Jacob. Verse 25 says that the man, or God touched Jacob's hip and that it was put out of it's socket. This is a physical result of a physical altercation. The chapter ends with Jacob limping suggesting again that he was injured from this wrestling and that it had a physical impact on his body. For these reasons, it's my person belief that Jacob did indeed physically wrestle with God. 

Did Jacob Physically Wrestle with God?

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Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

If you've read the book of Genesis, you might notice a reference to other languages in the last few verses of chapter 10, before you start reading the story of Babel in chapter 11. This could be very confusing and cause someone to question, "Were there different languages before the Tower of Babel?" When you know and understand the proper context for both of these chapters, the answer to this question becomes more clear and makes a lot of sense. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

The simple answer to this question is no. There were no different languages before the Tower of Babel, just like we were led to believe from the time we were small children hearing this story. The simplest way to answer this question is two-fold:

  1. Genesis 10 and Genesis 11 are better when read together rather than separately. If you're a one-chapter-a-day kind of person, this could leave you confused and triggered if you simply read chapter 10 and then walked away without reading chapter 11. 
  2. The literary style is different for each of these chapters, and it's important to keep that in mind when looking at the entire situation as a whole. 

Genesis 10 is a Genealogical Account, Genesis 11 is a Historical Narrative:

Genesis 10 is a genealogical account of the generations of Noah. This means that it is giving a full account of a broad timeline spanning multiple years. The generations of Noah spoken of in Genesis chapter 10 are believed to span from approximately the year 2500 BC through 2100 BC. After Genesis 10 finishes going through all the generations of Noah and their genealogical timeline, verses 30-31 read, "The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations." 

When you see "languages" in that passage, without the context of the overall timeline and how it fits within chapter 11 and its context, it can be very confusing. Genesis 11 is a historical account that is happening around 2100 BC. So while Genesis 10 is spanning this entire 400-year period, Genesis 11 is telling a historical account of an event that happened at the very end of that 400-year period. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

What Language Was Spoken Before the Tower of Babel?

We all know that there was one language spoken before the Tower of Babel, but which language was spoken? Hebrew is believed to be the common language of the people before the languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel. There is some confusion as to the exact dialect of Hebrew and what it actually looked like, but it was some form of Hebrew that was then broken into at least 72 languages after the Tower of Babel took place. 

The Tower of Babel Contradiction in The Previous Chapter? 

Many people look at the reference to different languages in Genesis 10, and then the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 to be a contradiction and a sign that the bible could not be true and trustworthy. If you read the bible with the intention to find fault in it, there is generally a good reason as to why things are as they are. When you understand the context for both chapters and what message each chapter is trying to get across, it's easy to see that these chapters are meant to be read together and not separately. When read together they make sense and complement, rather than contradict each other. 

Were There Different Languages Before The Tower of Babel?

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