How could the angel of Esau bless Jacob?

According to the Midrash, Genesis 32:25-31 describes how Jacob wrestled with the guardian angel of his brother Esau, and prevailed over him. That happened during the night before Jacob, returning home after an absence of 36 years [1], would have to confront Esau. The “blessing” that the angel was forced to give was his admission and confirmation that Jacob was the rightful recipient of the blessing that his father Isaac had originally wished to give to Esau.

And he (the angel) said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking,” but he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.”

Jacob had obtained that blessing from his father in a most unusual way. He had followed the instructions of his mother Rebecca, to get the blessing by disguising himself as Esau, in order to trick his father; see Genesis ch. 27. This “trickery” by Jacob and his mother was necessary in order to circumvent Esau, who had tricked his father for many years with false displays of righteousness. On a deeper level, it was the beginning of undoing the serpent’s tricking of Hava (Eve) in the Garden of Eden, which brought evil into the world.

Note that Isaac thought that Jacob, who was already completely connected to holiness, did not need the blessing. Isaac thought that the blessing should instead be used to help Esau overcome his desire for evil ways and turn with repentance to holiness. As a loving father, he did not realize that his deceptive son Esau was too immersed in evil to be drawn out from it at that time.

However, as Jacob prophesied when he took leave of Esau many years later (Gen. 33:14), the Edomites who descended from Esau (referred to there as the inhabitants of Mount Seir) will be spiritually refined in the future when the Messiah is revealed. This is the essence of the prophecy of the Book of Ovadiah, which concludes with the verse, “And saviors shall ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom shall be G-d’s.”


1. After Jacob fled from his home because he was in danger of being killed by Esau, he spent 14 years studying in the yeshiva of Eber, before the 20 years he spent working for Laban, and the 2 years he spent on the journey home with his family, his servants and his livestock. See Rashi’s explanations of Genesis 25:17 and 37:34.

For further teachings on this subject, see our web pages:

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