WRESTLE. The Hebrew pāthal, with a root meaning “twist” (Gen.30.8), is used of Rachel’s wrestling or struggling (emotional and vocal rather than literal) with Leah, leading Rachel to name her handmaid’s son Naphtali, “my wrestlings.” Hebrew ’āvaq, “get dusty, wrestle” (Gen.32.24-Gen.32.25), is used of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel (physical effect: the dislocation of Jacob’s thigh). Greek palē, “wrestling,” is used later of any kind of fighting; used of the Christian’s spiritual conflict with the powers of evil (Eph.6.12 kjv; niv “struggle”).
. Wrestling is a very ancient sport, well illustrated from Egypt and evidenced from Mesopotamia. In the Egyp. Old Kingdom, wrestling was depicted in the tomb reliefs of Ptahhotep at Sakkarah. More than 400 wrestling groups are shown among wall paintings in Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Scenes showing wrestling appear in the 20th dynasty temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. (Cf. H. Wilsdorf, Ringkampf im alten Ägypten
, 1939.) In the OT a serious wrestling bout of Jacob is described (Gen 32:24
; Heb. אָבַק
, “to wrestle”). A popular competition among the Greeks, wrestling provided NT illustration of spiritual principle. The Gr. word πάλη
, “wrestling,” is found in the NT once (Eph 6:12
), where it indicates the intensity and personal nature of spiritual conflict.