Jacob – Relevant to the Messiah?

 

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, is far removed from Jesus of Nazareth having lived some 2000 years earlier. Even two millennia later, there is a strong connection of Jacob to the Messiah and the story of Jesus of Nazareth

Knowing how God viewed Jacob is key, first demonstrated by God’s introduction of Himself. Five times in Exodus this phase is stated with a reference to God:  “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”[1]

Moses was hesitant about being sent to confront Pharaoh and deliver the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt. When he ventured to ask the Voice coming from the burning bush what he should say if asked who sent him to lead Israel out of Egypt, God’s resounding response:

EX 3:14-15I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’”. (NASB)

Jesus himself quoted these same words from Exodus as proof of resurrection of the dead when God spoke of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense:  “… Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”(NKJV)[2]

Promises made, promises not forgotten. As the backdrop, God had promised Jacob the same blessings given to his father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham. In blessing Jacob, God also changed his name: [3]

Gen. 35:10-11 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” And He named him Israel. And God said to him, “I am the Almighty God; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a multitude of nations shall come into existence from you, and kings shall come forth from your loins.(CJV)

Jacob would be called Israel, in Hebrew, Yisra’el, meaning “God Prevails.”[4] As time went on, Israel’s sons would become known as the fathers of the 12 tribes Israel.[5] To this day 4000 years later, Israel is the name of the Hebrew nation.

Jacob’s role in the story of the Messiah includes a specific blessing and prophecy of his own. Before he died, Jacob blessed each of his sons and foretold their future. Specifically for Judah:[6]

Gen. 49:8-10 Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples. (CJV)

Rabbi Rashi, one of Judaism’s most revered scriptural interpreters, identified “Shiloh” as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs” and “the scepter” refers to the royal lineage of “David and thereafter.” [7] According to Rashi, the prophetic blessing of Judah by his father Jacob was a pretext to the establishment of the kingdom of David.

“The scepter” (also interpreted as “the staff”) reappears over 400 years later in another prophecy tied to Jacob. Moab King Balak, an enemy of Israel, sought to have a curse placed on the Hebrew nation by the prophet Balaam. Instead, the response from God through Balaam was a prophecy linked to Jacob, a Star and the Scepter:

Num 24:17 “”I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.” (NKJV)

In Balaam’s prophecy, Rashi interpreted “the scepter” referred to King David. “The Star” shooting forth from Jacob he interpreted to mean, “As the Targum [Onkelos] renders, an expression similar to ‘He has bent his bow’ (Lam. 2:4), for a star shoots out like an arrow; in old French, destent, as if to say, his good fortune shall rise [prosper].”[8]

Promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were partially fulfilled when Israel conquered the land of Canaan and established a kingdom ruled by King David from the tribe of Judah.[9] At that time, the prophet Nathan prophesied to David that his kingdom would become the throne for the kingdom of God forever. [10]

Hebrew prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Micah and Malachi would add more specific details about the One who would come forth from Jacob.[11] They would include characteristics of the Messiah and predict the circumstances of his birth, life and death.

One more prophecy brought together the promises and predictions about the house of Jacob. It came from God’s own personal messenger, the archangel Gabriel, who announced to Mary:

LK 1:31-33 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Gabriel proclaimed, according to Luke, that the promise made to Jacob and the prophecies from the prophets would be fulfilled when Mary would give birth to the Son of God who would be given the throne of David to reign over the house of Jacob forever.

Jacob’s name is woven into the story of the Messiah from start to finish. Where would the promise of the Messiah be without a connection to Jacob?

 

Updated September 29, 2022.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Translations:

NASB: New American Standard Bible
NET: NetBible
NIV: New International Version
NLT: New Living Translation
NKJV: New King James Version
NRSV: New Revised Standard Version

REFERENCES:

[1] Exodus 3:6, 14-16; 4:5; 33:1. NET, NIV, NASB, NLT, NRSV, NKJV.
[2] Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20. CR Matthew 8; Luke 13.
[3] CR Genesis 50; Exodus 33; Deuteronomy 1, 9, 30; I Chronicles 16; Jeremiah 33.
[4] NetBible.org. Hebrew text. Yisra’el <03478> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3478.html>  CR Isaiah 43, 45.
[5] I Chronicles 2:1-12; 2 Kings 17.  “Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Twelve-Tribes-of-Israel>  Posner, Yecheskel. “12 Tribes of Israel: The Shevatim.” n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3798842/jewish/12-Tribes-of-Israel-The-Shevatim.htm>  “Ancient Jewish History: The Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-twelve-tribes-of-israel>
[6] Genesis 49. Lion of Judah (no title). Dahsom’s Blog. photo. 2019. <https://www.morninghope.com/genesis-49-jacob-blesses-his-sons-and-dies
[7] Gensis 49:10. Rashi commentary. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8244#showrashi=true> Mindel, Nissan. “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).” <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111831/jewish/Rabbi-Shlomo-Yitzchaki-Rashi.htm>
[8] Numbers 24:17 Rashi commentary. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952#showrashi=true>
[9] 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11.  Josephus. Antiquites of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.2.
[10] 2 Samuel 7:12 CR I Chronicles 17.
[11] Isaiah 2, 9, 10, 11, 20, 44, 46, 49, 58, 59, 60. Jeremiah 23, 30, 31, 33; Zechariah 3, 6, 12. Ezekiel 39. Micah 5. Malachi 3.