Jacob deceived his father Isaac, and cheated his brother, encouraged by his mother Rebekah, when he obtained a blessing in the place of Esau. He was fleeing from Esau's murderous threatenings, and wrath, when he dreamt about a ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, at Bethel. In his dream, God promised to give him the land, and that his seed would number as the dust of the earth, and that in his seed, all the families of the earth would be blessed. [Genesis 28:10-19] Clearly this blessing owed nothing to Jacob's own merits; he was a fugitive.
It was 20 years later, that Jacob was given the name "Israel." The meaning of the name "Jacob" was "he who supplants." Esau said of him, when he discovered his blessing had been taken away from him, "Is not he rightly named Jacob?"
And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
In the remainder of his life, Jacob became the victim of fraud himself. The first example of this occurred on the night of his wedding. He agreed to work for his uncle Laban for seven years, for the right to marry Rachel.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. 20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
The time came for the marriage, but after the wedding feast, Jacob awoke to a big surprise.
21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
While Jacob worked for his uncle Laban, God blessed him, he became wealthy. After he had been with Laban 20 years, Jacob said to his two wives, Rachel and Leah, that their father had "changed his wages 10 times."
And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.
And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.
If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked. 9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.
When Jacob described his 20 years of service to Laban, he said:
38 This 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.
39 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.
40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. 41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
Evidently Jacob had become a different man. When he returned with his family, and his cattle, he sought to be reconciled to his brother. He viewed himself as unworthy of all the mercy, and truth, God had shown him. Here is what he said in his prayer:
9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.
Jacob sent many gifts to his brother, in small bands, as Esau was coming against him with 400 men to exact revenge. Obviously, Jacob wanted to make amends for the grief he had caused Esau. He gave away much of his wealth to make peace.
Then, there is a strange account, in which Jacob wrestled all night alone, with a mysterious being, who is called a man, and God, in the story, but who many suppose may have been an angel.
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Why did Jacob want to be blessed again? He had already received many promises and blessings. But evidently, he did not believe he had received God's blessing yet. And in any event, was it a material blessing he was looking for? I suggest that this time, Jacob was seeking a spiritual blessing; he wanted to be forgiven, and at peace with his brother. His perspective was changed, and this was when he was given a new name, Israel.
I think this story indicates that the name "Israel" has to do with a spiritual reconciliation, rather than possession of material things.
1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.
2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
Jacob insisted that Esau accept the gift of cattle, and flocks of sheep, that Jacob offered him.
And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.
And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
Subsequently, Jacob was deceived by his own sons, who pretended they had found Joseph's coat of many colours, that Jacob had made, and they stained it with blood, to make it appear as if a wild animal had caught his favourite son. In reality, they had sold Joseph as a slave to a band of Midianites, who took him to Egypt. In his old age, Jacob described his life as one characterized by evil; "few and evil have the days of the years of my life been," he said to Pharaoh.
And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.
When Jesus referred to Nathaniel, who he chose as one of his disciples, as "an Israelite indeed," he showed a true Israelite meant a person "in whom is no guile." [John 1:47] That is the lesson Jacob learned. His name was changed from Jacob to "Israel" because his nature was changed.
In Revelation 14, the 144,000 saints on mount Sion are the ones identified with the 12 tribes of Israel in chapter 7. They represent the saints, not ethnic Jews. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They fit the description Jesus gave of a true Israelite, as there is "no guile" in their mouth.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
Copyright © 2010, 2012, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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