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2. Jacob

2-4-2 Jacob And Jesus


It has been pointed out that the order in which Jacob chose to bless his sons becomes a Messianic commentary, once we appreciate the Hebrew meaning of their names: " See a Son! (Reuben). Hear, join, praise and dwell with him (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun). He will bestow a reward (Issachar) at the judgment (Dan) upon a company (Gad) of blessed or happy ones (Asher), who, after wrestling (Naphtali) will add further (Joseph) to the Son of the right hand (Benjamin)" . At the end of his life, Jacob appreciated the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This same final emphasis on the supremacy and centrality of the Lord is to be seen in the growth graph of Paul and Job also. Jacob's reflection on the Lord Jesus must have been deep indeed, for he reaches some quite advanced and deep conclusions concerning him. Thus he describes God as the God from whom is " the shepherd, the stone of Israel / Jacob" (49:24), both evidently Messianic titles. Yet " the rock of Israel" is later understood to be a reference to the God of Jacob (2 Sam. 23:3). Therefore we may conclude that Jacob saw his God as manifest in the future Messiah, who would come out of the Father, i.e. be the Son of God. To understand God manifestation in Christ and the necessity for his Divine Sonship could have come from direct Divine revelation, but my sense is that it came instead from his deep appreciation of the promised blessing of forgiveness through Abraham's Messianic seed. Jacob's ever deepening appreciation of this and his progressive appreciation of God's grace led him to deeply meditate on the Lord's role. Jacob himself was a shepherd (46:34; Hos. 12:12), and yet he gave Christ the title of " the shepherd" (49:24), as if he recognized that although Christ would come out of God, he would also be exactly like Jacob, of his nature. He saw on a completely personal level the way in which Christ truly was his very very own representative. He therefore saw in himself a type of Christ, indicated by the way in which he asks his sons to gather themselves unto him, and then goes on to say that ultimately, his people will gather themselves together unto Messiah (49:1,2 cp. 10).  

Later Messianic titles memorialized the relationship between Jacob and Christ. " The King of Israel" suggests that Christ was seen by Jacob / Israel as his king (Mic. 5:1,2; Mt. 2:6; Mk. 15:32; Jn. 1:49; 12:13). 'The comfort of Israel / Jacob' (Lk. 2:25) also reflects how Jacob was comforted by his appreciation of his future Lord. Jacob's hope of Messiah was the hope of his life; " I have waited for thy salvation" , 'Your Jesus', he commented (49:18). Jacob describes Christ as " the stone of Jacob / Israel" (49:24); Jacob's physical stone had been overturned, rested upon, set up and anointed (28:13-15); perhaps now at the end, Jacob thought back to that incident and saw in that stone a prophecy of the death and resurrection of the Lord. Perhaps he even saw that the anointing, the 'Christ-ing' of the Stone would be after its raising up; he foresaw that the Lord Jesus would be made the Christ, the anointed, in the fullest sense by the resurrection (Acts 2:36). " The hope of Israel" , or (see modern versions), " he for whom Israel / Jacob hopes" is another title of Christ (Acts 28:20 cp. Jer. 14:8; 17:13; Joel 3:16); he was the one for whom Jacob / Israel hoped. And his hope is the hallmark of all the Israel of God. It may be that Paul used the phrase with reference to Jacob's Messianic expectations, seeing that in the essentially parallel Acts 26:6 Paul speaks of the hope of the promise made to the fathers. Thus Paul saw " the hope of the promise" as being " the one for whom Israel / Jacob hopes" , i.e. Messiah (Jer. 17:13; Joel 3:16). Like Jacob, Paul saw the promises as essentially concerning the spiritual blessings achieved in Christ, rather than merely 'eternal life in the land of Israel'. His exposition of the promises in Gal. 3 follows the same pattern.  

Jacob And Jesus

Many of Jacob's blessings of his sons contain some reference to Christ's future work, e.g. " he shall divide the spoil" (49:27); " he whom thy brethren shall praise" (49:8 = Rev. 5:5). Jacob describes Judah's Messianic descendant as " my son" ; he eagerly looked ahead to the Lord Jesus as fulfilment of the promised Messianic seed. He perhaps saw that the multitudinous seed he had been promised was in fact an intensive plural, referring to the one great Messianic seed. Jacob saw Christ as a powerful lioness protective of her cubs (cp. us), as " Shiloh" , the bringer of peace; thus his own troubled life lead him to a fine appreciation of the Lord's peace, i.e. the true forgiveness of sins and restoration of fellowship with God. He saw Messiah as being associated with the ass (49:11), the Hebrew for which essentially means 'patience'; he foresaw the Lord's patient endurance in the struggle, and even foresaw his garments as dipped in blood (49:11 cp. Rev. 14:18), eyes bloodshot with the struggle, and yet with teeth white as milk from a true assimilation of God's teaching (49:12 cp. Is. 55:1); through his personal experience and extensive reflection on the basic need of man and the promised blessing of forgiveness, Jacob really went deeply and accurately into a personal knowledge of Christ. Blind as he was (48:10), Jacob meditated upon the Lord Jesus. His mind was filled with him. He perhaps contrasted his own dim eyes with the burning, bloodshot eyes of his zealous Lord, visualizing the suffering  which he knew He would endure for his sake. The blessings of Gen. 49 are in well planned poetic form; it may be that Jacob composed these poems about the Lord Jesus as the crystallization of his extended reflection on the Lord. Would that we would rise up to the Messianic perception of the blind poet Jacob. Likewise David foresaw the Lord Jesus always before his face, and therefore his heart was never ruffled. Jacob evidently saw in Joseph's experience a type of Christ's future sufferings and resurrection (49:11,23). It may be that he considered Joseph to be the special Messianic seed (which he was, in type), and this would explain his profound joy on seeing Joseph alive and his children, for this would have meant that the promises concerning the seed, as he understood them, had been proved true (46:30; 48:11). It would also explain why Heb. 11:21 adds the detail that at the end of his life, as he was dying on his bed, Jacob showed his faith (i.e. his faith in Christ, which is the theme of Heb. 11) by worshipping Joseph, propping himself up on the bed head with his last energy to do it (Gk.). He clearly saw in him a type of his future redeemer. He finally accepted the truth of Joseph's dream: that Jacob must bow down to his greater son- although he reached this humility, this bowing before the spirit of Christ, in his very last breath. It seems probable that meditation on Joseph's experience was what brought Jacob to Christ; he had managed to scheme and plot his way out of every other crisis, but the loss of Joseph brought him to his knees helpless. The way he recognizes the greatness of Christ at the end reflects a maturing of attitude since the day when he refused to accept that he would ever bow down to Joseph (37:10). The way he speaks to Joseph at the end shows his deeper respect of him: " If I have found grace in thy sight" (47:29) was the same way in which he had addressed Esau, when crawling before him in 33:8,10,15. His appreciation of the greatness of Joseph reflected his appreciation of the greatness of Christ. Earlier, his anger with Joseph's claim that all his brothers would bow down to him is explicable when we remember that Isaac had promised Jacob that this would be his blessing (27:29 cp. 37:10). Yet at the end, he realized that the promised blessings didn't only apply to him on a personal level, and he even conferred such a blessing on Judah (49:8). 

Jacob's reflection on Joseph's sufferings gave him a clearer picture of those of the future Messiah. Jacob foresaw how Simeon and Levi would be especially responsible for 'houghing the ox' (49:6 RV), or bullock (Concordant Version), i.e. Christ (Dt. 33:17 RV), the bullock of the sin offering (Heb. 13:11-13). Gen. 49:6 can also be rendered, with evident Messianic reference, 'murdering the prince' (49:6 Adam Clarke's Translation). The Roman historian Hippolytus says that " From Simeon came the Scribes, and from Levi the priests" ; it was these groups who murdered the Lord, and Jacob seems to have foreseen this, through his reflection on their hatred of Joseph. He comments that they took counsel against Joseph, as the scribes and priests would do against Christ (Ps. 2:2).  

Progressive appreciation of the Lord Jesus can be seen in the lives of Paul, Peter and many others. But it was been pointed out by David Levin that Abrahamís appreciation of the promises relating to the Christ-seed also grew over time. When the promise was first given, he seems to have assumed it referred to his adopted son, Lot. Thus Abraham offered Lot the land which had been promised to Abrahamís seed (Gen. 12:7 cp. chapter 13). But after Lot returned to Sodom, Abraham looked to his servant Eliezer as his heir / seed (Gen. 15:2,3). Thus God corrected him, in pointing out that the seed would be from Abrahamís own body (15:4). And so Abraham thought of Ishmael, who was a son from his own body (although Yahweh didnít specify who the mother would be). When Abrahamís body became dead, i.e. impotent, he must have surely concluded that Ishmael was the son promised. But again, Abraham was told that no, Ishmael was not to be the seed; and finally God told Abraham that Sarah would have a child. Their faith was encouraged by the incidents in Egypt which occurred straight after this, whereby Abraham prayed for Abimelechís wives and slaves so that they might have children- and he was heard. Finally, Isaac was born. It was clear that this was to be the seed. But that wasnít all. Abraham in his final and finest spiritual maturity came to the understanding that the seed was ultimately the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in wondrous appreciation of the Saviour seed and the way of forgiveness enabled through Him.