BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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Jacob wrestling with the Angel ; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”.

Education environnement




Jacob’s Battle with the Angel


What you can see in this picture……

The man Jacob faces an angel, a very big angel.


They fight against each other or rather they oppose their strengths that seem equal. They do not look at each other.


The fight takes place outside, in an open landscape but the sun is low; it is dawn rather than sunset.


...and in other pictures

This is the physical fight of man against God. The latter, not being explicitly designated, takes the form of an angel against whom Jacob fights with great strength without looking at him. In the Middle-Ages, this combat was sometimes interpreted as a struggle between Virtue and Vice or as an interior struggle with the angel then becoming a demon.

The angel appears more or less involved in this unequal fight and does put all his strength into it. Sometimes he can be seen to hit Jacob’s hip and to dislocate its articulation.

The frequently grandiose Nature participates in this encounter; on one side, can be seen the ford that the whole family cross.


It should not be confused with



The Prophet Elijah receiving Bread and Water from an Angel; Peter Paul RUBENS; 1625-28; oil on canvas; Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, France

Web Gallery of Art



Elijah and the angel

Elijah is the most popular prophet in the Bible; he lived in the 9th century BC in the kingdom of Israel, and he was opposed to the king and the queen. He often had to flee and, one day, he took refuge in the desert where he was fed by messengers of God (The First Book of Kings 19:1-4).

The context of the desert permits to avoid any confusion; the angel brings some food. In the picture, the angel is a woman.



Cain kills Abel; Julius Schnorr von CAROLSFELD; 1851-60; engraving from “Bibel in Bildern”.



Cain and Abel

They are the two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain is jealous of his younger brother and one day, he kills him.

The fight is harsher than that of Jacob and Cain often has a weapon: a stick, a jawbone or a knife.

See Cain and Abel.





Jacob wrestling with the Angel ; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”.

Education environnement


Jacob’s Battle with the Angel


The Book of Genesis, chapter 32 

Many years have passed; Jacob has two wives and two maid-servants who have given him eleven sons. He starts on a journey to reconcile himself with Esau, his brother. One night, he has a strange encounter.

And he arose that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok…
And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he did not prevail 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 breaks", and he said: "I will not let you go, unless you bless me !" And he said to him: "What is your name? " And he said "Jacob". And he said:"Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince you have power with God and with men, and have prevailed". And Jacob asked him, and said: "Tell me, I pray you, your name", And he said: "Why is it that you 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."

(Genesis 32:22-30)



This narrative and that of his dream (See Jacob's Dream) mark Jacob’s exceptional destiny. Through the dream, God renews to him the promise made to Abraham. He will have a good land and a numerous offspring. By the combat, God names him Israël, he designates him as “strong”, he recognizes him as a wrestler, the one who triumphs over men and over God, not through his innate gifts but through his tenacity and his will..

The prophet Hosea brings together the two scenes:  "He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yes, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication to him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spoke to us." (Hosea 12, 4-5)





Jacob’s Battle with the Angel.


Jacob wrestling with the Angel ; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”.

Education environnement


Two real fights in a huge environment. Who has the upper hand?


The Fight between Jacob and the Angel; Eugène DELACROIX; 1850-1861; mural painting; St Sulpice Church, Paris

Web Gallery of Art



The Fight between Jacob and the Angel; Marc CHAGALL; 1960-66; oil on canvas; Musée National Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France



Another vision of the battle; it takes the form of a dance or of a fight in the void.


Jacob Wrestling with the Angel; Maurice DENIS, 1893; oil on canvas; private collection

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum



Jacob and the Angel; Gustave MOREAU; 1878; watercolour; Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris

CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum


The picture within the picture; Gauguin’s women of Brittany have been impressed by a sermon without a doubt full of imagery.

In Epstein’s sculpture, Jacob seems more passive.


The Vision after the Sermon; Paul GAUGUIN; 1888; oil on canvas; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum



Jacob and the Angel; Jacob EPSTEIN; 1940; alabaster; Tate Gallery, London

Tate gallery 






Israel is a word with several meanings


Israel is the name given by God to Jacob. It is the name of the ancestor of the Hebrew people.

Israel designates the people born of Jacob (one says the sons of Israel) and the land on which they live, for an unbreakable link unites them; they are both the fruit of the same promise. Jacob was already the father of 11 sons when he wrestled with the angel; later he had a twelfth son. The twelve sons of Jacob, called Israel, formed the 12 tribes of the people of Israel.


Israel is the name of the kingdom of the north. Until Solomon’s death (935 BC) the sons of Israel were divided into two kingdoms: that of Juda in the south and that of Israel in the north. The kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria were destroyed in 721 BC. Its inhabitants, called the Samaritans, were afterwards poorly thought of by the Jews (that is to say the inhabitants of the kingdom of Juda or Judea).


After the great dispersal of the Jews in 132 AD, Israel designated the Jewish people and their religion. A believer of this religion is called an Israelite.


Israel designates the name of a state founded in 1948 on a part of British Palestine, a state internationally recognised and whose inhabitants are the Israelis.

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BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008