Jacob, the younger twin son of Isaac and Rebekah and brother of Esau, was the ancestor of Israel and the father of the twelve sons who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Following Jacob’s purchasing the birthright blessings from Esau (Genesis 25: 29-34), and Isaac’s blessing upon Jacob (Genesis 27: 28, 29), Esau hated, and determined to kill him. Jacob fled, travelling nearly 500 miles to Chaldea, the original home of Abraham, to find a wife from among the daughters of his uncle Laban.
On the route, Jacob used a stone as a pillow and dreamed of a ladder that extended from the earth to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. The Lord stood above it, and reaffirmed the covenant that He had made with Abraham and Isaac. Jacob called the place Bethel, and vowed his allegiance to God (Genesis 28: 10-22).
Tested by God
God tested Jacob’s worthiness of the promised blessings and his faith in those promises. One of these was his love affair with his cousin Rachel. Jacob served Laban fourteen years for her, seven before he got her as a wife, and seven years afterward. Although his uncle took dishonest advantage of him, Jacob’s patience and persistency in God’s promises never wavered.
The lesson for spiritual Israelites is that while our hearts rejoice in God’s promises, effort is needed to secure them. If adversity and disappointments come, let us wait patiently, and trust, hope and labor on, knowing that God will bring out the promised results in the end; and knowing that He is on our part, and is greater than all they that be against us (1 John 4: 4).
A Peaceable Man
Jacob possessed a peaceable disposition. He preferred to leave home and abandon his share in his father’s house and family property, which belonged to his birthright, rather than quarrel with his brother. Similarly, he refused to quarrel with his uncle. The lesson is found in Psalm 34: 14: “Seek peace, and pursue it,” and Psalm 37: 7: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him.”
As Jacob and his family were returning to the Holy Land, he sent a conciliatory message to Esau, referring to his brother as his superior. Learning that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men, he became fearful and distressed, and prayed one of the finest prayers found in God’s Word. Jacob then prepared a valuable present for Esau, to show him that so far from wishing to take any earthly goods from him, he desired to give him more (Genesis 32: 3-21). Jacob’s course gained Esau as a friend. Here is another lesson – let us not be sticklers for full justice and the last penny in earthly matters.
Wrestling with the Angel
The night before Jacob met Esau he became engaged in a wrestling match with an angel who appeared as a man. During the struggle Jacob insisted that the angel give him a blessing – he received the blessing, and a change of name. He was thereafter called Israel, meaning “a prince with God,” or “mighty with God” (Genesis 32: 24-32). The lesson is persistence. Our Lord said, “Men ought always [continuously] to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18: 1). If the answer to our prayer is delayed, let us patiently wait for the Lord’s due time, faithfully trusting His willingness to give the blessing which He promised.
Jacob displayed faith his entire life, especially on his deathbed. After giving special blessings to Joseph’s sons, he worshipped God, leaning upon the staff (head post) of his bed. He recognized that the blessings that were to come to his family were all under Divine supervision and all included in the original promise made to Abraham. He further signified his faith by giving directions respecting his burial, that it should not be in Egypt, but in Canaan, the land of Promise, which was Israel’s by faith only.
The Larger Picture
In the larger picture: (1) Jacob pictures our Lord Jesus; (2) Jacob’s twelve sons picture our Lord’s twelve Apostles; and (3) true fleshly Israelites picture true spiritual Israelites. Additionally, Jacob and Esau picture God’s Gospel Age servants and Fleshly Israel respectively, especially in their relations with one another.