Sorry for asking a question kid in my Catechism class asked, but I didn't know the answer and she is an expert level 7th grader.

  • Why did God wrestle with Jacob if they're both good?

  • Was God actually trying to kill Jacob?

  • Was there some reason Jacob needed to be injured and was he seriously injured?

  • 11
    Don't be sorry. Kids ask some of the most difficult Biblical questions, because they're (usually) sincere questions. Wait until she asks you "Who did Cain and Abel marry?" Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 15:01
  • This is an old question that is now off-topic. All questions staring with "Why did God ..." are primarily opinion based unless it specifically requests a denominational/theological perspective. But this is an excellent question though.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 22:22
  • @fredsbend agreed, I VTC'ed it a while ago myself, but it didn't take
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 22:45

6 Answers 6


The short answer is "To teach Jacob an important lesson."

This all takes place, of course, in Genesis 32.

First, to your first question: Jacob wasn't "good" by any means. If you look at Jacob before this, he has stolen the blessing that was Esau's birthright. (Genesis 27). He had several children with women he didn't love, and was certainly no great father to them. (Genesis 30-31).

By the time he wrestled with this angel (or with God depending on the translation - I'm going to stick with God) in chapter 32 starting in verse 24, he'd pretty much shown that he was not a "good" man at all.

Yet, God chose him to the the father of the nation of Israel.

To the second question: was God trying to kill Jacob? In the wrestling match, Jacob wrestles with God until daybreak (verse 24). Then God touches the hollow of Jacob's thigh and dislocates it, demonstrating that He could have easily defeated Jacob at any time. This was a lesson in humility - showing Jacob that compared to God, he was nothing.

That also answers the third question. Jacob was injured - he was disabled by a mere touch, to show that God is powerful and compared to God, he is nothing. Whether he was "seriously injured" depends on whether or not you consider a dislocated hip "seriously injured".

Yet, knowing full well that he was nothing, Jacob did something brave and remarkable. He refused to give up until God gave him a blessing. He continued to fight, but now it was for God, not against God.

I believe that the reason for the encounter was to ensure that Jacob, who became Israel afterward, had the correct motivation, heart, and attitude toward God. it was a lesson in humility, and Jacob responded by a show of faith and longing for God.

  • 5
    Good answer, mostly. But Jacob certainly did not steal Esau's birthright. The birthright, the right of preeminence in the covenant God had made with Abraham, was sacred, but it meant so little to Esau that he was willing to trade it for a hot meal. If you read Esau's actual words, they come across as the words of a whiny child: "I want food now! I'm starving!" Jacob was righteous enough to appreciate its value. He only had to resort to guile to obtain the actual blessing because he knew Esau would go back on his promise and try to kill him for it, which almost happened.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 16:15
  • But what was "the important lesson?" can you give a specific reference as towards GOD saying exactly why he wrestled Jacob?
    – jchaffee
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 17:13
  • @Mason Wheeler that is an important correction! Thank you! Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 23:26
  • @jchaffe - No I can't. And I can't know for certain what God's reasons are. My answer is based on a study of scripture as a whole, and an application of doctrinal principles. Specifically understanding scriptural principles that are not spelled out based on what it says as a whole. God reveals Himself to us for various reasons, including (but not limited to) to bring Him glory, that we might know Him, that we might understand our relationship with Him, and that we may be molded by Him. I believe that Jacob's experience here was a lesson in all of those. But I do see your point. Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 23:29

I am sorry to say it, but we don't know why GOD chose to wrestle Jacob. Maybe Jacob needed to wrestle GOD, maybe it was a dream, symbolic of all humanity, the Scriptures leave the event open to a lot of interpretation.

But that is completely due to Genesis not giving us a reason for GOD wrestling Jacob, I know this may not be the answer you were looking for but the fact is that we don't know why, and that is the honest truth. I would give a biblical reference, but I don't know how to give a reference for something that is not in the Bible.

Rather than to step out on a limb and say something speculative rather than factual, I would have to say to rest in the mystery of it like thousands of years of Jews and Christians have. Perhaps we are simply meant to wrestle with the mystery of GOD in this event recorded in Scripture.

  • 1
    While I don't disagree with this conclusion, could you possibly add some external references or scripture to support this? As it is, it's pure speculation, which isn't a strong answer.
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 14:51
  • Maimonedes wrote that this episode took place in a dream; Ramban countered: "But if this be the case, I do not know why Jacob limped on his thigh when he awoke!" (talking about Gen. 32:31). If there's dispute about whether it was dream or reality, there certainly isn't much agreement about what it might mean, among the many options.
    – James T
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 16:03
  • How do I give a reference for something that is not in the Bible (that Scripture gives no reason why GOD wrestled with Jacob)? To say that something is not in the Bible is not speculation.
    – jchaffee
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 17:11

From looking at the situation that Jacob was currently in gives me a better understanding of it. Jacob had an issue with running away from his mistakes instead of confronting them head on, his mom taught him that by the way. This ultimately took a toll on Jacob's life. God decided it was time for Jacob to become a man. He actually starts forcing Jacob to confront his fears head on. His uncle Laban actually runs Jacob down and captures him after Jacob just ran off without talking with him first,(he was afraid). He left because God told him to go back to where he had deceived his brother and ran away. This is where Jacob's fear overcomes him and he actually comes to grips with himself and admits to God how unworthy he was to be blessed by the Lord. I believe that Jacob still let his fear overtake him again and was attempting to flee again before meeting his brother face to face. I believe this is where God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, comes down and wrestles with Jacob and dislocates his hip. He is to far in the game to flee with a dislocated hip now. He has no choice to see his brother face to face now.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! This is an interesting take on the reason, and I am +1'ing. In the future, a better answer would be more directly supported from the Scripture or relevant doctrine, but in this case, I think you're doing a good job of sticking to the question and providing a very reasonable (and theologically supportable) answer. Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 20:22

I try to answer with my Scripture reading. May this answer help

The answer for number one: First we have to know that Jacob seems knew that he was not good at all. We can see in the previous chapters before, Jacob get everything by tricking. Tricking his brother (Esau) and tricking his uncle (Laban). For the reason why GOD Choose to wrestle with Jacob,This may be the answer:GOD choose to wrestle with him because the answer for his prayer in the chapter 32:9-12. Jacob prayed so hard, but he try to depend of what he have and what he think (the herds he give to Esau to win his heart in the Chapter 32:13-21). He try to win his brother heart with his plan (understanding). After Jacob sent all he had across the stream (only himself), he wrestle with GOD. GOD want to tell him: 1. He shouldn't depend on the prosperous he has, but he only need to depend on GOD, because the herds he sent to Esau is not necessary to win his heart. 2. Another lesson is GOD try to tell him that GOD is greater than him (and of course his thinking and understanding). The proverbs 3:5-6 said "trust in god with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding". This is proven in the next chapter which is chapter 33:9, Esau replied: "i already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself." Even Esau try to accompany and protect Jacob. This is a lesson for Jacob to depend on GOD not depend on what he has.

For the number two: The Scripture (Genesis) was written by Moses, and he was write by the power of Holy Spirit (the one who wrestle with Jacob - because Father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit is one). But the Scripture never tell about intent to kill like it said in the Exodus for Moses. So i don't think GOD was trying to kill Jacob at all. Instead HE just want to wrestle and teach him a lesson

For number three: This may be the symbolic for Esau not to flee again. Because he always flee when the fear overcome him just like the Sean Daniel told us.. He probably want to flee and fear overcome him, that is why he was injured.


Even though a good answer was given by David, I would like to make some points:

As have been said, Jacob was not good at all, but he believed in God. We can take that as a allegory in many levels:

  • A sinner who recognizes his miserable situation and begs for God to change his or her life.
  • A believer that fights in prayer and not quit until get an answer.
  • Israel as a nation, who always did bad things, but when in danger asks help from God and was both helped and disciplined by Him.

To sum up, when you believe in God and know He is the only one who can give what you need, then you also know your only choice is ask him no matter the consequences. The boldness of the request is proportional to your need and despair. The response sometimes is hard, because we sometimes need to lose something to gain the real blessing.
God knows our needs, but Jesus taught a lot about prayer, so you can understand that he wants us to be active in our relationship with him.


‘FIRST’...Let us take a look at what is found printed in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 32, and verse 24 (of the KJV 1611 Edition Authorized Version of the Holy Bible), which reads:

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled 'A MAN' with him until the breaking of the day."

Now, what does this verse mean? Well, first of all, this verse did not read (in-part): "There wrestled An ANGEL with him"...so you can discard that myth out of your heads. Furthermore, you must not READ this verse as if it is a 'NEWS ARTICLE' that was published in your local Tabloid, or READ this in a "literal Perception." For thereby, the English’s transliteration of the noun “MAN” that occurs here came from the Hebraic word: “אִישׁ-'iysh,” which means: “GREAT MAN.” This very same Hebraic meaning “אִישׁ-'iysh,”... pertains to the very same “GREAT” that is read in Deut. 10:17. And, it also applies to the noun “MAN” that is mentioned in Numbers 23:19. That is, the first “MAN”: not “The Son of Man,” in that passage that pertains to “The Christ.”

‘SECOND’: The word ‘wrestled [, in its past tense,]’ occurs only ‘THREE TIMES’ in the entire [KJV] Holy Bible. And all ‘3’ occurrences is found only in the Book of Genesis; and is related to Jacob. Here, in Genesis Chapter 32 and verse 24, is the second occurrence.

The very FIRST “wrestle match [, per-say,]”…took place in the East, in the Biblical City known as ‘Padanaram between two BLOOD SISTERS whose names were [, in their English’s pronunciations,] ‘Leah’ and ‘Rachel’, the daughters of Laban, Jacob’s Uncle: who were also the ‘cousins’ of Jacob.

However, this ‘FIRST wrestling match’ that took place in Padanaram between Leah and her sister Rachel, has its own meaning; that is, opposed to the other meaning of the other two occurrences.

In fact, this particular ‘wrestle’ was NOT physical—just as the wrestling match that took place between ‘Jacob’ and this certain ‘MAN’ that is found here in Genesis 32:24 was NOT PHYSICAL...no—no—no.

This now brings us back to the subject of the other two occurrences of the word ‘wrestled [in its past tense]’, which is also the SECOND recorded ‘Wrestling Match’ that took place in Genesis 32:24, which is TOTALLY different from the FIRST.

In other words, that particular word ‘wrestled’ came from the original Hebraic word [that Moses used] known as “אָבַק [from right that to left: aleph, beth koph]-'abaq, pronounced ä•vak',” which means: “of the ground [or terrestrial]; and of the clouds [or celestial].”

In other words, this particular ‘wrestled’ that took place between Jacob and this certain ‘MAN’ (, Whom is now identified as ‘YAHWEH’,); took place when Jacob was LEFT alone…remember?

This means that ‘Jacob’ had time to meditate on his PRAYER that he performed to ‘YAHWEH’ earlier in that same Chapter [32] that can be confirmed in verses 9 through 12.

This also means that ‘Jacob’ had time [while being bi-himself; that’s ‘BI [B-I]’as in two of himself; or being split up into two Jacobs, which is a ‘SIMILE’ of how Jacob divided the people that was with him earlier that night, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands—that’s TWO sides of Jacob.

One side of his THOUGHTS that represented the earthly thoughts of Jacob; as well as the other side of the same THOUGHTS of his MIND that represented Jacob taking on the heavenly or celestial thoughts that was soon to become known as Israel;] at the completion of this great and historical ‘wrestling match’ that he was now involved in ‘WITH’ …this CERTAIN ‘MAN’.

Keeping in MIND that while Jacob was wrestling ‘WITH’ ‘YAHWEH’, Jacob also experienced going back so deep into the sub-consciousness of his MIND, until he reached the depth of his MIND where is DOUBT is stored.

This means that 'Jacob' was having a 'Mental' conflict in his MIND that almost caused him his LIFE. THIS IS PROVEN IN EPHESIANS, CHAPTER 6, AND VERSE 12, WHICH READS:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”


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