What does Genesis 32:24 mean?This passage contains one of the most significant occurrences in Jacob's eventful life. It will also become a significant moment in the long history of the people of Israel. In fact, it will reveal why they are named the people of Israel. Key to this understanding is a look at the Hebrew words used in this story. The name of the river is Yab'bōq, which means "emptying." The man involved is named Ya'aqōb, which means "heel-grabber." And the contest he engages in is described by yē'ābēq, meaning "grappling, wrestling."
It is nighttime, likely very dark. In the night, Jacob has sent everything he owns, in addition to his wives and all of his children, across a shallow spot in the Jabbok River and toward his potentially murderous brother Esau (Genesis 32:6; 32:13–21). He has remained behind alone.
Now comes an unexpected and startling statement: A man wrestled with Jacob until dawn. The following verses will offer some explanation, but no meaningful details are given as to how this contest began. We're not sure, from the text, if Jacob was violently attacked by an unknown man. Or, if there was some challenge, conversation, or warning before it began. They engage in real, physical combat or wrestling. Their contest seems to be more or less a stalemate, continuing to sunrise.
Jacob, who has been dreading a fight with his brother Esau, suddenly finds himself in an actual fight, but with a stranger.