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2. Jacob

2-2-3 The Weakness Of Jacob

Jacob's basic dishonesty is seen by the way in which Esau begged Jacob for the "red pottage", which he thought was a kind of blood soup [a strange thing for Yahweh's people to be eating at the time!]- and yet Jacob actually only gave him a dish of lentils. This would explain why Esau later claimed he had been twice deceived by Jacob (Gen. 27:36). The mere sale of the birthright was hardly deception; but if the bitterness of it all was that even in that hard bargain, Jacob didn't really give Esau the food he craved... then we can understand Esau feeling Jacob had twice deceived him.

The spiritual weakness of Jacob at the time of the wrestling incident can be inferred from the way Hosea speaks about Jacob in Hosea 12. Hosea paints Jacob as a hypocrite, one who prays to God and yet serves idols. Hosea is recognizing that the sins of the fathers tend to continue in subsequent generations; and yet those generations are still culpable for their sin [alcoholics who blame 'inherited genes' should bear this in mind]. But the point is, Hosea is reasoning upon the basis of the similarities between Jacob and the Israel of his day; and he's urging them not to be like Jacob, not to blame their weakness on the fact Jacob was their genetic ancestor; and perhaps urging them to go and make the conversion to true spirituality which Jacob eventually made.

There is reason to think that even at the end, Jacob was still in some ways weak. Thus despite his name having been changed from Jacob to Israel, the two terms are used by God in the record in juxtaposition  (34:7; 35:22; 46:2, 5,8; 48:2) as if to reflect the way the full change of Jacob would only take place in the Kingdom, when each believer will receive his new name (Rev. 3:12). We have seen that Jacob really is our example, or perhaps our pattern of spiritual growth, and that in so many ways, Jacob matured marvellously. And yet there is real evidence that even at the end, there were serious deficiencies in his spirituality. Recognition of this fact must not lead us to any spirit of complacency in our spiritual struggles. But at the end, we will never reach the stature of Christ. By grace, righteousness has to be imputed to us. The spiritual blindnesses and deficiencies of our brethren can be so agonizing to behold; and yet we too have ours, as Jacob had his, and the fact we have them does not mean that we (or they, or Jacob) will not be saved in the end. Perhaps you won't agree with all the following; but the general picture is clear: he didn't quite make it to the spiritually perfect / mature status with which he is credited right at the beginning (25:27 Heb.). Job is an identical case; he is labelled " perfect" at the beginning, but at the end of his spiritual growth, he didn't quite get to perfection.  The weakness of Jacob meant likewise.

- " (Shechem), which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (48:22) indicates that Jacob's old self-reliance was still not totally gone; his sense that through his own effort he could bring about the fulfillment of God's promises for him. In this area, the weakness of Jacob remained. These very words are alluded to in Josh. 24:12 and Ps. 44:1-6, where the Spirit says that the land was given to Israel not on account of their bow and sword.

- We have shown that finally, Jacob accepted Joseph as a type of Christ. And yet it would seem that he favoured Judah with an unseemly favouritism. His comment that " thy father's children shall bow down before thee" (49:8) seems a conscious allusion to Joseph's dream that Jacob's children would bow to him; as Jacob refused to accept it then, so he had problems with it even at the end (37:10). " I had not thought to see thy face" (48:11) suggests that he had discounted the possibility of Joseph's dream ever coming true.

- Although Jacob maybe favoured Judah on a human level, he certainly favoured Joseph spiritually. It seems that he made up his mind that Messiah would come from Joseph (when in fact Christ came through Judah). He said that Ephraim's seed would become a multitude of nations (48:19)- he was applying the Messianic promise to Ephraim. Likewise he stated that from Joseph (Ephraim's father) would come the Shepherd / Stone / Messiah (49:24); presumably, Jacob thought, through Ephraim. Yet Jacob was wrong in this. Thus whilst Jacob showed his spiritual maturity by an enthusiasm for the Lord Jesus Christ, even right at the very end of his life, he still had an old flaw: a desire to fulfill God's promises in the way he wanted them fulfilled, a desire to turn God's word round to fit in with his preferred way of thinking (in this case, that Messiah would come through Joseph / Ephraim). The way the prophets continually describe sinful Israel as " Ephraim" is perhaps God's way of showing that Jacob's way was not His way.

- The weakness in Jacob's tendency to have an over-physical view of the promises was still with him at the end. He seems to speak as if he saw the fact that Rachel was buried in Canaan as a proof that therefore in that sense he had  possessed the land of Canaan (48:7 and context). Yet the NT says that the fact Jacob didn't own the land meant that he hadn't received the fulfillment of the promises, but would do so in the future.

- This all too physical view of the promises is perhaps also suggested in his desire to make Yahweh his God because He had fed him all his life long (48:20). Earlier he had promised to do this, if Yahweh would indeed provide him with daily food (28:20). That bargain he struck with God would surely have been best repented of rather than carried through.

- " His border shall be unto Zidon" (49:13) is an unreconciled expositional problem. The canton of Zebulun in the Millennium will be nowhere near Zidon, and Zebulun didn't have a border unto Zidon in the past. According to Josephus (Ant. 19:10,16), Zebulun was never even bounded by the sea, being cut off by Asher. Could it be that at times Jacob's enthusiasm carried him away, and what he said was more his own wishing than the direct revelation of God? Until a satisfactory explanation can be come up with, it seems this is what we must accept. In this case, we see that even in this flurry of faith in the future Kingdom and Messiah (see Jacob and the promises), Jacob's interest in the physical aspect of the promises still remained with him, and carried him away in a way which God refused to work with. David's spiritual enthusiasm for Solomon needs to be read in a similar light; he makes statements concerning him which reflect a Messianic zeal, but also a desire to see his physical son more blessed than he was worthy of.