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Jacob's Wrestle With An Angel


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Who did Jacob wrestle with? I thought he wrestled with the Lord (who wouldn't have  physical body at that time). If an angel, who was it and how did that angel have a body pre-the Savior's resurrection? If it was a messenger, was it someone like Melchezidek? Or is this an allegory?

 

Genesis 32:24–32. Jacob’s wrestle with an angel

“Most scholars believe Jacob wrestled with an angel, but President Joseph Fielding Smith explained why this explanation could not be true:

“‘Who wrestled with Jacob on Mount Peniel? The scriptures say it was a man. The Bible interpreters say it was an angel. More than likely it was a messenger sent to Jacob to give him the blessing. To think he wrestled and held an angel who couldn’t get away, is out of the question. The term angel as used in the scriptures, at times, refers to messengers who are sent with some important instruction.’ (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:17)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 89).

While much of what happened at Peniel (also spelled Penuel [see verse 31]) is unclear, the scriptures indicate that a sacred experience took place there. Spiritual struggles often precede powerful revelations. For example, when Enos, Alma, and Joseph Smith each earnestly sought blessings of the Lord, they experienced such “wrestlings” (see Enos 1:1–5; Alma 8:10; Joseph Smith—History 1:13–17.) The wrestle Jacob experienced may have been a similar spiritual struggle.

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41 minutes ago, nuclearfuels said:

Spiritual struggles often precede powerful revelations. For example, when Enos, Alma, and Joseph Smith each earnestly sought blessings of the Lord, they experienced such “wrestlings” (see Enos 1:1–5; Alma 8:10; Joseph Smith—History 1:13–17.) The wrestle Jacob experienced may have been a similar spiritual struggle.

The text arguably implies that it was an actual physical struggle, since the angel injured Jacob's hip socket and caused him to limp.

 

Edited by Olmec Donald
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10 hours ago, Olmec Donald said:

The text arguably implies that it was an actual physical struggle, since the angel injured Jacob's hip socket and caused him to limp.

 

Which indicates a resurrected being, so not Christ or anyone from this creation since Christ was the first.

And according to Joseph the only angel that minister to this earth are those that lived here in mortality.

It had to be the Father.

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2 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

Which indicates a resurrected being, so not Christ or anyone from this creation since Christ was the first.

And according to Joseph the only angel that minister to this earth are those that lived here in mortality.

It had to be the Father.

I thought that God the Father could not directly interact with us here because of our Fallen nature?  Spiritual death and the Fall and Christ being the Mediator between us and God because of the Fall and all that.  

Besides that, the 'angels' that Abraham and Lot entertained had physical bodies in the story, didn't they?

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10 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I thought that God the Father could not directly interact with us here because of our Fallen nature?  Spiritual death and the Fall and Christ being the Mediator between us and God because of the Fall and all that.  

That's a common assumption I've heard people make, but I'm unaware of anything in the scriptures or taught by prophets that teaches this. 

11 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Besides that, the 'angels' that Abraham and Lot entertained had physical bodies in the story, didn't they?

I've always assumed that the angels were from the city of Enoch because of their corporeality, but I agree with @JLHPROF that the LORD who visited Abraham and ate with him and the God with whom Jacob wrestled were both the Father (because He had a body). I personally don't think that the Father interacting (even physically) with the world is any theological problem. 

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2 minutes ago, rongo said:

That's a common assumption I've heard people make, but I'm unaware of anything in the scriptures or taught by prophets that teaches this. 

I've always assumed that the angels were from the city of Enoch because of their corporeality, but I agree with @JLHPROF that the LORD who visited Abraham and ate with him and the God with whom Jacob wrestled were both the Father (because He had a body). I personally don't think that the Father interacting (even physically) with the world is any theological problem. 

So you disagree with the concept of Spiritual death being a consequence of the fall?

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3 minutes ago, bluebell said:

So you disagree with the concept of Spiritual death being a consequence of the fall?

Not at all. I disagree with the premise that the Father can't visit earth and interact with us on earth after the Fall. That isn't being "in His presence" in the same way that the Celestial Kingdom is, in my view. 

I think this notion is a complete assumption without any scriptural support. 

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Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Jacob wrestled with a mortal messenger:

‘Who wrestled with Jacob on Mount Peniel? The scriptures say it was a man. The Bible interpreters say it was an angel. More than likely it was a messenger sent to Jacob to give him the blessing. To think he wrestled and held an angel who couldn’t get away, is out of the question. The term angel as used in the scriptures, at times, refers to messengers who are sent with some important instruction. Later in this chapter when Jacob said he had beheld the Lord, that did not have reference to his wrestling.’ 

Skinner seems to believe it was a translated being:

"At some point, Jacob was joined by a being who would wrestle with him for the rest of the night. The details of Jacob’s wrestle are not made clear in the biblical record, but we have enough information that we can see profound truths and patterns in this episode of the patriarch’s life.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Jacob’s wrestle was physical as well as spiritual, because the text is emphatic in its description of Jacob’s dislocated hip (see Genesis 32:25, 31-32). Perhaps that detail is mentioned precisely to show that his wrestle was a literal as well as a metaphoric occurrence. It is also reasonable to suppose that Jacob’s opponent that night was a being from the unseen world of heavenly messengers, a divine minister possessing a tangible but translated body, because he was able to wrestle all night and throw Jacob’s hip out of joint (see Genesis 32:24-25).

That the personage was merely a mortal seems unlikely, first of all, because the text takes care to point out that Jacob was left completely alone, with no other humans close by (see Genesis 32:22-24). Second, the nature of Jacob’s encounter was of special and profound consequence. The Hebrew word used to describe Jacob’s visitor is simply ”ish, meaning “man,” with no overt reference to divine status.4 Nevertheless, the same word is used elsewhere to denote divine messengers in several Old Testament passages that deal with angels or heavenly beings who are sent to convey revelation. When used in this way, the word also often connotes the operation of the principle of divine investiture of authority-the authorization that God grants to others to speak in His name, even sometimes as though they were God Himself. “Thus, the angel of Yahweh ([Hebrew] ‘mal’akh) often appears in the form of an ”ish, ‘a man.’ Either both terms are used interchangeably for an angel . . . or angels who appear at first only as men [but] afterwards speak with divine authority (Gen. 19:12ff.; Jgs. 13:3ff.; Josh. 5:15) or even as God Himself (Gen. 18:9ff.), or they act in the place of God (19:10f.; Jgs. 13:20)…Also in the prophets, the angel of God appears in the form of an ”ish.”5

As implied in Doctrine and Covenants 129:4-7, divine messengers of Jacob’s day (or any dispensation, for that matter) who had physical contact with earthly beings had to possess physical bodies themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith “explained the difference between an angel and a ministering spirit; the one a resurrected or translated body, with its spirit ministering to embodied spirits-the other a disembodied spirit, visiting and ministering to disembodied spirits.”6 Furthermore, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith indicated that whenever divine messengers had a mission to perform among mortals, those messengers “had to have tangible bodies” and thus were translated beings.7

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that translated beings are coworkers with God to bring to pass His great plan of salvation. “Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets.”8 Of Enoch, the preeminent translated personage, the Prophet said: “He is a ministering Angel to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation.”9

It seems very unlikely that the being involved with Jacob was Jehovah Himself, because the Lord did not yet possess a physical body. And the being could not have been a one-time mortal who was now a resurrected being because Christ was the “firstfruits” of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20), the first of our Heavenly Father’s children on this earth to be resurrected. Therefore, one of two possibilities regarding the identity of Jacob’s night visitor is that he was a translated being who had been an inhabitant of this earth, since “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it” (D&C 130:5).

Though encounters with translated beings in Jacob’s day are not explicitly recorded, those beings certainly existed. Enoch and his entire city had been translated and taken up into heaven as a result of their righteousness (see Moses 7:18-24). Melchizedek possessed that same kind of great faith. He “and his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken” (JST Genesis 14:34). In fact, other men with that same faith and possessing the same priesthood as Melchizedek and Enoch had also been translated and taken up into heaven (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:32)."

By Common Consent believes it was God the Father:

"Personally, I’ve always viewed the wrestler as God himself. That to me seems to be the plain import of the Genesis text. The new name Jacob receives from the wrestler, Israel, means El/God fights or He fights with El/God. The name Jacob gives the place is Peniel, or Face of El/God, so named he says because he had seen God face to face and lived.

JFS’s view is governed by modern assumptions–it is simply impossible that a human man could physically prevail with any sort of a divine being. AS’s view is tempered by modern LDS theology equating Jehovah with the preexistent Christ.

But Mormonism also is home to just about the most aggressive anthropomorphism anywhere within a stone’s throw of Christianity. And this is a primitive story. I think it reads more naturally, and is way cooler, if the wrestler is actually God, than if we do backflips trying to avoid that most obvious reading."

I'm not decided in any direction yet.  But I lean much less towards God the Father than towards a translated being.  And I disagree that reading God the Father into it is an avoidance of the most obvious reading.  The most obvious reading is whatever the author was trying to say and I don't think we find that using the english translation mixed in with our cultural and religious expectations and beliefs. 

That seems like it would be the most bias reading to me.

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2 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Jacob wrestled with a mortal messenger:

Skinner seems to believe it was a translated being:

By Common Consent believes it was God the Father:

Well, if Skinner and By Common Consent say that, then . . . :D

By Common Consent contributors by and large deny a lot of literal things. One in particular from my FAIR days, whom I respect, downplayed the appearances and ordinances in D&C 110. So, BCC doesn't really move my needle. :) 

I'm not surprised that Fielding Smith doesn't share my view. I tend to differ from JFS/McConkie on things like that (or multiple saviors for multiple worlds, etc.). 

6 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I'm not decided in any direction yet.  But I lean much less towards God the Father than towards a translated being.  And I disagree that reading God the Father into it is an avoidance of the most obvious reading.  The most obvious reading is whatever the author was trying to say and I don't think we find that using the english translation mixed in with our cultural and religious expectations and beliefs. 

That seems like it would be the most bias reading to me.

We don't need much Hebrew to know what the plain, unencumbered-with-presentism meaning of Penuel was originally regarded to be. Or what LORD replaced in the KJV. What holds some LDS back is the notion that physical contact between Elohim and earth after the Fall is somehow forbidden. 

It's one of those open questions that people can believe what they want without eternal consequences. 

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In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel
And the angel was overcome

You plant a demon seed
You raise a flower of fire
See them burning crosses
See the flames higher and higher
 
Bullet the Blue Sky, U2
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30 minutes ago, rongo said:

Well, if Skinner and By Common Consent say that, then . . . :D

By Common Consent contributors by and large deny a lot of literal things. One in particular from my FAIR days, whom I respect, downplayed the appearances and ordinances in D&C 110. So, BCC doesn't really move my needle. :) 

I'm not surprised that Fielding Smith doesn't share my view. I tend to differ from JFS/McConkie on things like that (or multiple saviors for multiple worlds, etc.). 

Maybe you missed where By Common Consent agrees with you?  Maybe that he agrees with you should cause you some concern.  :lol:

Quote

 

We don't need much Hebrew to know what the plain, unencumbered-with-presentism meaning of Penuel was originally regarded to be. Or what LORD replaced in the KJV.

 

 

You'll have to explain what you mean more because I'm not sure.  

Quote

What holds some LDS back is the notion that physical contact between Elohim and earth after the Fall is somehow forbidden. 

I think it's more precedence mixed with doctrine than notion for most LDS. 

What is the precedence that we have with God the Father interacting with mankind?  We have interaction in the Garden and then none after they are kicked out.  We have one vision to JS where God introduced His son, told JS to listen to Him, and then didn't say anything else, and then we have one more audible experience in the BOM where God again introduces His son and then bows out.

It's not that it is forbidden, but that precedence seems to indicate that it God interacts with us here through angels or His Son.  Jacob wrestling with God is completely outside precedence.  That doesn't mean it's not God on it's own, but it's not evidence in favor either.

Edited by bluebell
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Here's another view from Nahum Sarna in his commentary on Genesis:

The literary artistry shows every sign of the influence of two dominant motifs common to a broad range of cultures.  The river as the scene of the struggle recalls the many tales of river-spirits that fight humans who seek to cross their abodes….Equally widespread is the motif of a demonic being whose power is restricted to the duration of the night and who is unable to abide the breaking of the dawn.  ….These motifs are obviously incompatible with Israelite monotheism.  They have consequently been refracted and transformed in our biblical narrative.  … In short, the occurrence of this incident by a river and the sudden attack by a mysterious assailant indicate that popular folk tales provided the literary model for this biblical narrative.  But a careful and radical purging of all elements offensive to the monotheism of Israel has taken place….

This raises the question of the identity of the antagonist.  Who but Esau would have had such an obstructionist interest?  But the wrestler is definitely not Esau himself.  Hence, he must stand for Esau in some manner.  He is, as it were, Esau’s alter ego.  The vocabulary employed in the narrative to identify the strange person—a “man,” a divine being” (elohim) is that used elsewhere of angels.  Indeed, the prophet Hosea explicitly describes him as such in Hosea 12:4.  The most plausible solution, therefore, is to see in this mysterious being the celestial patron of Esau.  This, indeed, is the interpretation given in a midrash.  Throughout the ancient world, the idea was current that each city-state, each people, had its divine protector.  In monotheistic Israel such a notion was intolerable.  It therefore transmuted into a belief in the existence of subordinate tutelary spirits who were part of the celestial host. … In summation, the mysterious creature who assails Jacob as he is about to cross the future border of Israel is none other than the celestial patron of Esau-Edom, who is the inveterate enemy of the people of Israel. 

Nahum Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary Genesis, Excursus 24.

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Why can't Jacob's wrestle with the "man" be simply a mortal man who was a representative and messenger of God?  And the same goes for the three men who came to Abraham on the plains of Mamre?  Couldn't they simply be Abraham's local Stake Presidency coming for a visit and in the process they deliver a message from the LORD, or Abraham speaks directly to the LORD (in a vision, or otherwise) in the process of their visit?   

I'm not saying this is how it has to be, but I think we sometimes get caught up on the word "angel" (angel in Hebrew and Greek is just a "messenger") or the language of "seeing" God, and I think we may read some of our modern understanding into the phrases.  So I'm trying to take a fresh approach to how to read this.

The scriptures put a lot of emphasis on the authority of the Lord's representatives, and there is no difference between them and the Lord.  For example, in ancient Israel, to appear before the Levite priests was the same as appearing "before the LORD" (Exo 23:17, Exo 28:30, Exo 34:23, Deut 16:16, Deut 31:11, Deut 19:16-18).

And whether or not we "see God" can be determined by our behavior and our response to his covenants.  For example:  John 6:46  "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father."   3 John 11 "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.  He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God."

I'm not saying that neither Jacob or Abraham literally saw God, I just don't think their entire experience (Jacob wrestling with the man, or Abraham feeding the three men) needs to be perceived that way.  Both experiences could have led up to heavenly visitations from the Lord.

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2 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

In The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, Hugh Nibley said this:

First edition, page 243.  And think about all the wonderful implications of having something translated correctly, as well as Nephi's comments about no one being able to understand the Jews like unto them, save it be they are taught after the manner of the Jews, and Barker's elaborate case in King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John's Gospel that Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus on being "born again" because they had lost touch with the temple.

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

Does Nibley attempt to correlate the idea of it being a coronation event with Jacob dislocating his hip?  Were coronation events really physical things?

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45 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Does Nibley attempt to correlate the idea of it being a coronation event with Jacob dislocating his hip?  Were coronation events really physical things?

No.  Nibley is simply pointing out the parallels to the Temple, and suggesting that if "wrestle" should be translated as "embrace" and implying that the original context and setting for the story was a theophany and a ritual embrace like that in the temple, rather than a purely physical test of strength.  And all of that suggests that something of the original story was perhaps muddled by someone who did not know that original context.  Part of the meaning of the word "translate" is not just going from one language to another, but from one culture to another, and and across time and distance. So a perplexed and mistaken transmitter might have tried to help things along in the wrong direction based on missing the implications of a different meaning for the same Hebrew letters.  The same seed planted in different soil and nurtured in different ways can have a dramatic impact on the harvest.  "Know ye not this parable?  and how than can ye know all parables?"  Mark 4:13.  The Gas-Law of Learning: "Any amount of information, no matter how small, will expand to fit any intellectual void, no matter how large." (Hugh Nibley).

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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1 hour ago, Kevin Christensen said:

No.  Nibley is simply pointing out the parallels to the Temple, and suggesting that if "wrestle" should be translated as "embrace" and implying that the original context and setting for the story was a theophany and a ritual embrace like that in the temple, rather than a purely physical test of strength.  And all of that suggests that something of the original story was perhaps muddled by someone who did not know that original context.  Part of the meaning of the word "translate" is not just going from one language to another, but from one culture to another, and and across time and distance. So a perplexed and mistaken transmitter might have tried to help things along in the wrong direction based on missing the implications of a different meaning for the same Hebrew letters.  The same seed planted in different soil and nurtured in different ways can have a dramatic impact on the harvest.  "Know ye not this parable?  and how than can ye know all parables?"  Mark 4:13.  The Gas-Law of Learning: "Any amount of information, no matter how small, will expand to fit any intellectual void, no matter how large." (Hugh Nibley).

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

That makes sense.

I think we can easily forget how vastly different the culture of a few thousand years ago in that area of the world was from ours.  We read stuff with our cultural understanding and think that it's the plainest way to read it, without seeing everything that we are adding to the text based on our personal understanding of the world and God.

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9 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

Which indicates a resurrected being, so not Christ or anyone from this creation since Christ was the first.

And according to Joseph the only angel that minister to this earth are those that lived here in mortality.

It had to be the Father.

You don’t consider translated and therefore still embodied divine messengers to be a possibility?

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2 hours ago, teddyaware said:

You don’t consider translated and therefore still embodied divine messengers to be a possibility?

Well I guess it could be Enoch.  Do we know anyone translated prior to Jacob's day?

However the name given the place by Jacob translates as meeting God face to face.  Peniel - face of God.

I'm sticking with the only member of the Godhead with a physical body at that time.

Edited by JLHPROF
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1 minute ago, Calm said:

Wasn’t the entire city translated?  So plenty of individuals available even if we don’t know their names. 

I've always thought that one of the main reasons for translating an entire city is to have a good supply of physical beings to act as God's messengers (AKA angels). 

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1 minute ago, InCognitus said:

I've always thought that one of the main reasons for translating an entire city is to have a good supply of physical beings to act as God's messengers (AKA angels). 

Same here. 

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