KJV Genesis 32:22-30 reads as follows:
 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Whom did Jacob wrestle that night? (And no, it wasn’t Mickey Rourke.)
There is a widely repeated answer to this question from Joseph Fielding Smith, which appears in various places (including the CES OT student manual), and arguably is sort of semi-official:
‘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.’
So one possibility is that the wrestler was not a supernatural angel, and a fortiori certainly not God himself, but a human messenger.
Andrew Skinner acknowledged JFS’s view, but had a different take [see Skinner, Andrew C., “Jacob in the Presence of God” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 117-132.]:
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).
Skinner bravely disagrees with JFS’s semi-canonical view to argue for the messenger being indeed a divine angel or messenger of some sort. But he argues against it being Jehovah himself, on the theory that Jehovah was not yet embodied and so physically could not have participated in the wrestling match.
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.
What do you think about this? What is your vote; theory 1, 2 or 3, or do you have a different view you would like to propose? My hope is that this discussion will be useful in the near future when our GD classes hit this passage and this question inevitably comes up. So please share with us your insights on the identity of The Wrestler.