This study takes a look at Jacob who later becomes Israel. I will place Jacob in his historical context. Next, I will examine Jacob as the receiver of the promises of Israel. And, finally I will discuss Jacob, the man and his character.
Jacob and his twin brother Esau were born when Isaac was 60 years old (Genesis 25:26). The year of their birth can be determined by a little simple math. 1921 BC was established in our chronology study as the year that Abram entered into the land of Canaan. He was 75 years old at that time. 25 years later, Isaac was born in the year 1896 BC. This fixes the year of Jacob’s birth at 1836 BC.
In our lesson on biblical chronology, we established the year of the Exodus as 1491 BC or 430 years after Abraham entered Canaan in 1921 BC. It is very interesting that when we look at the year when Jacob entered Egypt, we find it is exactly at the half way point of the 430 years. Genesis 47:9 says that Jacob was 130 years old when he came into Egypt which puts Jacob’s arrival into Egypt in the year 1706 BC. 1921 – 1706 = 215. 1706 – 1491 = 215.
One final point that provides a very different picture than most have for the story of Esau and Jacob is that Jacob was 77 years old when he left his parents house to flee from his brother and marry Rachael and Leah. Most people imagine Esau and Jacob in their 20’s when this happened but the chronology given in the Old Testament shows that Jacob was 77 years old when this happened.
Jacob was the son of Isaac who inherited the promises. In Genesis 28:13-14, God restated the promises He made to Abraham and also Isaac. Those promises were for the land and that all the families of the earth would be blessed through the promised seed (which is Christ).
13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac;
10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:
It is very important for every Christian (and Bible believer) to understand that God made two promises to Abraham which he reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob: 1) Christ, the promised seed and 2) the land of Israel which is described in Psalm 105 as an everlasting covenant. God still has a purpose for the nation of Israel and His promise to them of the land is as sure as Christ, Himself.
Jacob, the man is the example for many of us of the person who strives through scheming, stressing, and running to grab the good things of life that God would have us just receive from Him as a gift of grace. Jacob convinced his brother to first sell his birthright to him for a pot of stew. Jacob saw his brother in a weak moment and saw the opportunity to pounce. Then many years later (37) when Isaac was very old and wanting to give the blessing to his oldest son, Jacob once again saw an opportunity in the frailty of his father and pretended to be Esau in order to steal the blessing from his brother. It is important to remember that God had promised before the twins were born that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). God had promised in His grace to bless Jacob. Jacob felt that he had to steal the blessing.
After stealing the blessing, Jacob had to run. He ran until God made it so he could run no more. Jacob ran to uncle Laban’s house in Syria where he met his wives. Jacob met his equal in uncle Laban. Laban made a deal to marry off his daughters and then changed the deal after the fact several times. God is a God who keeps His promises so God continued to bless Jacob throughout his stay and work with Laban. Jacob then had to run from Laban. Jacob had very interesting plans for gain and did things to gain livestock for himself but truly, he was simply blessed of God.
When he ran from Laban to return to the promised land, Jacob ran into his brother Esau. Jacob made some plans of his own and sandwiched them around a prayer to God. This sounds exactly like how most of us do things today. Jacob’s plan was to divide his things so Esau could not get them all and also to soften Esau with gifts.
After Jacob put all of his plans in place, he found himself alone with God and wrestling with God throughout the night (Genesis 32:24). Jacob demanded a blessing before letting go. God did bless him there but not as he expected; he took away his ability to run and change him on the inside. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel that day and all he could do was walk with God trusting him as he went. Jacob was satisfied with the same thing that satisfied Job; to come into the presence of God and see Him. He went from being the striver to the one who clinged to God.
Jacob was the person like us who worked his entire life to pry the blessing out of God’s hand that God through His grace wanted to give all along. Each time he used his striving plans Jacob hurt everyone around him. His son, Joseph was the one who waited on God’s salvation and is the one who we will study in our next lesson.