“And I Will Tell You of the Wrestle Which I Had Before God”

Alan C. Miner

According to John Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, additional evidence suggesting that Enos had his ancestor the ancient patriarch Jacob in mind as he wrote, is found in his words "I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God" (Enos 1:2). In Hebrew the words before God would be liphney 'el, literally "to the face of God." The name of the place where Jacob wrestled all night, Peniel, is from the same Hebrew phrase. "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 32:30).

After his wrestle with God, Enos expressed the hope that, at the resurrection, he would "stand before Him; then shall I see his face with pleasure" (Enos 1:27). This passage is also reminiscent of Jacob's reunion and reconciliation with his brother Esau the day after his nightlong wrestle. Jacob said to his brother, "I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me" (Genesis 33:10). Just as Esau was "pleased" when Jacob saw his face, Enos hoped to see the face of God "with pleasure." [John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Jacob and Enos: Wrestling before God" in FARMS Update, No. 146, in Insights, FARMS, Vol. 21, 2001, pp. 2-3]

“I Will Tell You of the Wrestle Which I Had Before God”

Enos notes that "I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins" (Enos 1:2). Thus the question the reader might ask is not whether the word "wrestle" pertains to a spiritual struggle, but on what level. One of the most puzzling episodes in the Bible has always been the story of Jacob's wrestling with God in Genesis 32:24-31:

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 [in essence, "the face of God]: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

And as he passed over Penuel [a variation in the name "Peniel"] the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.

The reader should note the addition of italics, interpretation within brackets, the capitalization of the pronouns "he" and "him," and the capitalization of the noun "a man." That they all refer to God is verified not only by verse 30 ("for I have seen God face to face"), but by Genesis 48:14-16, in which Jacob describes the Lord as both "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk," and "the Angel which redeemed me from all evil."

According to Bruce R. McConkie, Jacob's name was changed to Israel, "for as a prince," the divine decree announced, "hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." (Genesis 32:24-30; 35:9-13; Hos. 12:1-5). Literally, the name Israel means contender with God, the sense and meaning indicating one who has succeeded in his supplication before the Lord, who has enlisted as a soldier of God, who has become a prince of God. (Bruce R. McConkie, "Israel" in Mormon Doctrine, p. 389)

According to Hugh Nibley, when one considers that the word conventionally translated by "wrestled" (yeaveq) can just as well mean "embrace," and that it was in this ritual embrace that Jacob received a new name and the bestowal of priestly and kingly power at sunrise, the parallel to the Egyptian coronation embrace becomes at once apparent. (Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 243; quoted in Gary P. Gillum, ed., Of All Things!, Classic Quotations from Hugh Nibley, p. 45)

Thus, Enos' "wrestle" with the Lord was perhaps similar to that of Jacob of old, which involved special covenants and powers. The reader should also note that Enos's father Jacob was named after the ancient patriarch Jacob. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 1:15]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary