Delacroix described this composition: "Left-hand picture. Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Jacob is bringing the flocks and other gifts by which he hopes to assuage the ire of his brother Esau.
A stranger appears who stops him and engages him in a stubborn struggle, which ends only when Jacob, wounded in the tendon of the thigh by his opponent, is made powerless. This struggle is
regarded, by Holy Scripture, as a sign of the ordeals that God sometimes visits upon his chosen ones."
The composition is in striking contrast to The Expulsion of Heliodorus. Far from limiting himself to the pictorial representation - splendid as it be - of a Biblical incident (Genesis XXXII, 24-32), Delacroix takes it and raises it to the highest level of spirituality. He deliberately overlooks everything that may appear anecdotal in order to give full value to the true subject: the confrontation of man and God in one of the most beautiful landscapes ever to come from the artist's brush. In its fully vibrating color reflections, it directly anticipates the art of Corot and already contains the seed of some of the principles of Impressionism. Springing from a hummock, two large live and flourishing oaks symbolize calm strength - that of the angel - and throw the mystery of their centuries-old shadow over the scene. Treated with a rich and varied palette, the subtly graduated greens of the foliage allow a vaporous golden light to filter through like dawn and be concentrated on the two figures.
On the formal plane, the kinship to Michelangelo is obvious here in the powerful build of Jacob, whose heavy physical presence contrasts with the dancing lightness of the angel.
Showing fewer reservations than for The Expulsion of Heliodorus, the critics were almost unanimous in praising this masterpiece and especially in recognizing the beauty of the landscape.