Gleanings In Genesis
29. The Man Jacob
Jacob and his experiences may be viewed from two chief viewpoints: as a picture of the believer, and as a type of the Jewish nation. We shall take up the latter first. As to Jacob foreshadowing the history of the Jews we may note, among others, the following analogies:
1. Jacob was markedly the object of God’s election: Romans 9:10. So, too, was the Jewish nation. See Deuteronomy 6:7; 10:15; Amos 3:2.
2. Jacob was loved before he was born, Romans 9:11-13. Of the Jewish nation it is written, "Thus saith the Lord, the people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest, the Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:2, 3).
3. Jacob was altogether lacking in natural attractiveness. This is singularly true of the Jewish people.
4. Jacob was the one from whom the Twelve Tribes directly sprang.
5. Jacob is the one after whom the Jewish race is most frequently called. See Isaiah 2:5, etc.
6. Jacob was the one whom God declared should be "served," Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:29. Of the Jews the prophetic scriptures affirm, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people, and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face to the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet" (Isa. 49:22, 23). And again it is written of Israel, "And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules" (Isa. 66:20).
7. Jacob was the one to whom God gave the earthly inheritance, Genesis 27:28; Genesis 28:13. So, too, the Jews.
8. Jacob suffered a determined effort to be robbed of his inheritance, Genesis 27: Isaac and Esau. So have the Jews.
9. Jacob valued the blessing of God, but sought it in carnal ways, totally opposed to faith, Genesis 26:27. So it is written of the Jews, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:2, 3).
10. Jacob was exiled from the land as the result of his sin, Genesis 28:5. So have the Jews been.
11. Jacob spent much of his life as a wandering exile from the land; such has been the history of his descendants
12. Jacob was distinctly the wanderer among the patriarchs, and as such a type of the wandering Jew!
13. Jacob experienced, as such, the sore chastenings of a righteous God. So, too, the Jews.
14. Jacob had no "altar" in the land of his exile: thus also is it written of the Jews, "For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a King, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice" (Hosea. 3:4).
15. Jacob set his heart upon the land while exiled from it. His yearning for home is strikingly expressed in his words to Laban: "Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country," (Gen. 30:25). How we behold the same yearning among the Zionists today, as they appeal to American and British statesmen to make it possible for them to return in safety to Palestine!
16. Jacob was unjustly dealt with in the land of exile, Genesis 29:23; Genesis 31:41, 42.
17. Jacob developed into a crafty schemer and used subtle devices to secure earthly riches, Genesis 30:37, 43.
18. Jacob while in exile receives promise from God that he shall return unto the promised land, Genesis 28:15.
19. Jacob received no further revelation from God during all the years of his exile, until at length bidden by Him to return, Genesis 31:3.
20. Jacob was graciously preserved by God in the land of his exile and was the object of His ceaseless providential care.
21. Jacob became wealthy while in the land of exile, Genesis 30:43.
22. Jacob, because of this, had stirred up against him the enmity of those among whom he sojourned, Genesis 31:1.
23. Jacob ultimately returned to the land bearing with him the riches of the Gentiles, Genesis 31:18.
24. Jacob is seen at the end blessing the Gentiles (Gen. 47:7), and acting as God’s prophet, Genesis 49. In all these respects Jacob was a striking type of the Jew.
We shall next look at Jacob as a picture of the believer. It is intensely interesting to mark how each of the patriarchs foreshadowed some distinct truth in the believer. In Abraham we see the truth of Divine sovereignty, and the life of faith; in Isaac Divine sonship, and the life of submission; in Jacob Divine grace, and the life of conflict. In Abraham, election; in Isaac, the new birth; in Jacob, the manifestation of the two natures. Thus we find the order of these Old Testament biographies foreshadowed accurately what is now fully revealed in the New Testament. Again, we may remark further that, typically, Jacob is the servant. This is ever the Divine order. Abraham, the chosen object of God’s sovereign purpose, necessarily comes first, then Isaac, the son born supernaturally, the heir of the father’s house, followed by Jacob, the servant. It is needful to call special attention to this order to-day, though we cannot here enlarge upon it. Man would place sonship at the end of a long life of service, but God places it at the beginning. Man says, Serve God in order to become His son; but God says, You must first be My son in order to serve Me acceptably. The apostle Paul expressed this order when he said: "Whose I am, and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23). How carefully this order is guarded in our type appears further in the fact that before Jacob commenced his service at Padan-aram he first tarried at Bethel, which means "the House of God"—we must first enter God’s household before we can serve Him! That Jacob does, typically, represent service is clear from, Hosea 12:12, where we are told, "And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep." The history of this we get in Genesis 29 and 30. As a servant with Laban, Jacob was singularly faithful. Here is his own challenge, "These twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was, in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night."
There is still another way in which this progressive order in the typical foreshadowings of the three great patriarchs comes out. This has been forcefully set forth by Mr. F. W. Grant who, when commenting on the words of the Lord to Moses at the burning bush—"say unto the children of Israel, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob sent me unto you"—says, "In Abraham we find manifested the type of the Father, and in Isaac admittedly that of the Son, in Jacob-Israel we find a type and pattern of the Spirit’s work which is again and again dwelt on and expanded in the after-scriptures. Balaam’s words as to the people, using this double—this natural and this scriptural name, are surely as true of the nation’s ancestors. ‘It shall be said of Jacob, and of Israel, what hath God wrought?’ What God hath wrought is surely what in the one now before us we are called in an especial way to acknowledge and glory in. For Jacob’s God is He whom we still know as accomplishing in us by almighty power the purposes of sovereign grace."
While it is true that each of the three great patriarchs exemplified in his own person some fundamental truth of Divine revelation, yet it is to be particularly noted that each succeeding individual carried forward what had gone before, so that nothing was lost. In Abraham we behold the truth of election God’s singling of him out from all the people on the earth; yet in Isaac the same truth is manifested, as is evident from the passing by of Ishmael and God’s declaration that "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Isaac represents the truth of Divine sonship, born supernaturally by the intervention of God’s power. Now in Jacob both of these truths, with important additions, are also to be observed. Even more notably than in the eases of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob is the object of God’s sovereign choice: "Jacob gives occasion to the exercise of God’s sovereignty as to the twin children of Isaac and Rebekah. ‘For they being not yet born, nor having done any good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calls, it was said to their mother, the elder shall serve the younger.’ It had been shown before in casting out the bond-woman and her son; but so it was now far more emphatically in Jacob chosen, not Esau. No flesh shall glory in His sight; in Jehovah certainly, as it ought to be. Is man only to think and talk of his rights? Sinful man! Has God alone no rights? Is He to be a mere registrar of man’s wrongs? Oh! his wrongs, not rights: this is the truth, as no believer should forget from the dawn of a vital work in his soul!" ("Jacob," by W. Kelly).
As the above truth is now so much controverted we subjoin a further quotation from the pen of one who is regarded as one of the leading orthodox teachers of our day: "In all this we see the marvel and glory of the Divine sovereignty. Why the younger son should have been chosen instead of the elder we do not know. It is, however, very striking to find the same principle exercised on several other occasions. It is pretty certain that Abraham was not the eldest son of Terah. We know that Isaac was the younger son of Abraham, and that Joseph was not the eldest son of Jacob. All this goes to emphasize the simple fact that the order of nature is not necessarily the order of grace. All through, God decided to display the sovereignty of His grace as contrasted with that which was merely natural in human life. The great problem of Divine sovereignty is of course insoluble by the human intellect. It has to be accepted as a simple fact. It should, however, be observed that it is not merely a fact in regard to things spiritual; it is found also in nature in connection with human temperaments and races. All history is full of illustrations of the Divine choice, as we may see from such examples as Cyrus and Pharaoh. Divine election is a fact, whether we can understand it or not (italics ours). God’s purposes are as certain as they are often inscrutable, and it is perfectly evident from the case of Esau and Jacob that the Divine choice of men is entirely independent of their merits or of any pre-vision of their merits or attainments (Rom. 9:11). It is in connection with this subject that we see the real force of St. Paul’s striking words when he speaks of God as acting ‘according to the good pleasure of His will’ (Eph. 1:5), and although we are bound to confess the ‘mystery of His will’ (Eph. 1:9), we are also certain that He works all things ‘after the counsel of His will’ (Eph. 1:11—italics not ours). There is nothing arbitrary about God and His ways and our truest wisdom when we cannot understand His reasons is to rest quietly and trustfully, saying, ‘Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.’ ‘In His Will is our peace’" (Dr. Griffith-Thomas, Commentary on Genesis).
Not only is the Divine sovereignty illustrated in Jacob, as in Abraham, but we also see typified in him the truth of regeneration (as in the case of Isaac) inasmuch as nature was set aside, and only in answer to prayer and by Divine intervention was Rebekah enabled to bear Jacob: see Genesis 25:21.
That which is most prominent in the Divine dealings with Jacob was the matchless grace of God, shown to one so unworthy, the marvelous patience exercised toward one so slow of heart to believe, the changeless love which unweariedly followed him through all his varied course, the faithfulness which no unfaithfulness on Jacob’s part could change, and the power of God which effectively preserved and delivered him through numerous dangers and which, in the end, caused the spirit to triumph over the flesh, transforming the worm Jacob into Israel the prince of God. How these Divine perfections were displayed will be discovered as we turn our attention to the various scenes in which the Holy Spirit has portrayed our patriarch. We turn now to look briefly at Jacob in Genesis 28.
In our last article we dwelt upon Jacob deceiving his father, now we see how quickly he began to suffer for his wrongdoing! "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban, thy mother’s brother" (Gen. 28:1, 2). Jacob is sent away from home, to which he returns not for many years. In our studies upon Isaac we have seen how he foreshadowed those who belong to the heavenly calling, whereas, as we have pointed out above, Jacob typified the people of the earthly calling. This comes out in many incidental details. Isaac was forbidden to leave Canaan (type of the Heavenlies)—Genesis 24:5, 6—and his bride was brought to him, but Jacob is sent forth out of Canaan to the house of his mother’s father in quest of a wife, and thus was signified the evident contrast between Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob’s earthly place and relationship.
"And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 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 thy liest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 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 thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of" (Gen. 28:10-15). There is much here that might be dwelt upon with profit to our souls, but we can do little more than mention one or two things.
Here we behold the marvelous grace of God, which delights to single out as its objects the most unlikely and unworthy subjects. Here was Jacob a fugitive from his father’s house, fleeing from his brother’s wrath, with probably no thought of God in his mind. As we behold him there on the bare ground with nothing but the stones for his pillow, enshrouded by the darkness of night, asleep—symbol of death—we obtain a striking and true picture of man in his natural state. Man is never so helpless as when asleep, and it was while he was in this condition that God appeared unto him! What had Jacob done to deserve this high honor? What was there in him to merit this wondrous privilege? Nothing; absolutely nothing. It was God in grace which now met him for the first time and here gave to him and his seed the land whereon he lay. Such is ever His way. He pleases to choose the foolish and vile things of this world: He selects those who have nothing and gives them everything: He singles out those who deserve naught but judgment, and bestows on them nothing but blessing. But note—and mark it particularly—the recipient of the Divine favors must first take his place in the dust, as Jacob here did (on the naked earth) before God will bless him.
And under what similitude did the Lord now reveal Himself to the worm Jacob? Jacob beheld in his dream a ladder set up on the earth, whose top reached unto heaven, and from above it the voice of God addressed him. Fortunately we are not left to our own speculations to determine the signification of this: John 1:51 interprets it for us. We say fortunately, for if we could not point to John 1:51 in proof of what we advance, some of our readers might charge us with indulging in a wild flight of the imagination. The "ladder" pointed to Christ Himself, the One who spanned the infinite gulf which separated heaven from earth, and who has in His own person provided a Way whereby we may draw near to God. That the "ladder" reached from earth to heaven, told of the complete provision which Divine grace has made for sinners. Right down to where the fugitive lay, the ladder came, and right up to God Himself the "ladder" reached!
In His address to Jacob, the Lord now repeated the promises which He had made before to Abraham and Isaac, with the additional assurance that He would be with him, preserving him wherever he went, and ultimately bringing him back to the land. In perfect harmony with the fact that Jacob represented the earthly people we may observe here that God declares Jacob’s seed shall be "as the dust of the earth," but no reference is made to "the stars of heaven!" The sequel to this vision may be told in few words. Jacob awoke and was afraid, saying, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven" (v. 17). Next, he took the stone on which his head had rested and poured oil upon it. Then he changed the name of the place from Luz to Bethel. It is instructive to note this change of name, Luz—its original name, signifies "separation," while Bethel, its new name, means "the house of God." Is it not beautiful to mark the typical force of this? God calls us to separate from the world, but in leaving the world we enter His house! "Never do we part from ought at His call, but He far more than makes it up to us with His own smile" (W. Lincoln).
Finally, we are told, "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that! come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God. And this stone, which! have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house, and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee" (Gen. 28:20-22). How true to life this is! It was not only characteristic of Jacob personally, but typical of us representatively. Jacob/ailed to rise to the level of God’s grace and was filled with fear instead of peace, and expressed human legality by speaking of what he will do. Oh, how often we follow in his steps! Instead of resting in the goodness of God and appropriating His free grace, like Jacob, we bargain and enter into conditions and stipulations. May the God of Grace enlarge our hearts to receive His grace, and may He empower us to magnify His grace by refusing to defile it with any of our own wretched additions.