The Glenlock Bible Camp was held from April 14-17 and considered the theme “Jacob – Prevailing With God”, under the leadership of Brother John Martin. This special supplement contains some of the highlights of the addresses and the many exhortations they contained. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder of the powerful messages in the life of Jacob both to those who attended the Camp as well as those who were unable to be there. If there is one thing that shines paramount in Jacob’s life it is God’s Providence. We all like to think that God walks with us and directs us, sometimes against our own will, but here in Jacob is a classic example of that. His was a life that needed direction because here was a man who thought he could do everything himself, by his own strategems and by his own ingenuity, but he could not. In all the manipulation and deception surrounding him, the power of the Omnipotent overshadowed him until at the last he collapsed into the arms of Yahweh and surrendered himself to the greatest power in heaven and earth; and through the succeeding centuries Yahweh never allowed Israel to forget the lessons of Jacob.

STUDY ONE: ESAU AND JACOB – TWO MANNER OF PEOPLE

There He Spake With Us

When Jacob departed from his own house to go into Padan-aram he 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 I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall Yahweh be my God: and this stone, which I 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). Later in the Land, when an Israelite brought his offering of firstfruits to Yahweh, he was instructed to hand the basket of bread (the “staff of life”) to the Priest and confess, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:…” (Deut 26:4, 5). This was Jacob – “a Syrian ready to perish…” – and Yahweh redeemed him and brought him to acknowledge “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”. Jacob saw his father and grandfather as greatly superior and more deserving of respect than himself. But when he came again to Beth-el, he called it “El-Beth-el” – “the strength of the house of the mighty” having learned in the intervening forty years to purge out the “Syrian” characteristics andwait upon his God (Hosea 12:6).

In the womb Jacob “took his brother by the heel”; in his manhood when he grew up “he had power with God” when he was confronted with his own weakness and reduced to tears (Hosea 12:4). The Prophet Hosea therefore can say “…He found him (Jacob) in Beth-el, and there He spake with us” (Hosea 12:4). The occasion when God did “speak to Jacob” was on his return to Beth-el which marked the turning-point in Jacob’s life – the point at which he grew up: “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. …And God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon” (Gen 35:1, 13-15).

Two Manner of People

Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah and for 20 years they were childless. Isaac “intreated Yahweh for his wife” and when she finally conceived she was in great distress as she waited for the birth and cried to God, “If it be so, why am I thus?” according to the AV. This is more correctly expressed as, “If the blessing of God comes in this way, why did I ask!”. In response to her prayer Yahweh told her, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated fromthy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:22, 23). “Two manner of people” is from the Hebrew “derek”, meaning a path, which indicates that these boys were destined to take two entirely different paths in life. Note the interesting connection in Isaiah 49:3-5.

Rebekah’s name means “to be fettered” or “a rope with a noose”. She is described as “the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian” and “the sister to Laban the Syrian” and although she was a Godly woman, the Syrian characteristics of cunning, scheming and deception were part of her and were passed on to her favourite son, Jacob. When the twins were born, “the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment”, as though he were a fully developed man of the flesh who thought, acted and ate like an animal, from his natural birth. It was appropriate therefore that he should be named “Esau”, meaning “rough”, from a root “to be made”; and that his name should later be changed to “Edom” which means “red”.

In his birth Jacob took hold of the heel of his brother and earned the name, “heel-catcher” or “supplanter”. Esau recognised the appropriateness of such a name when he tearfully sought the blessing which Jacob had received: “Is not he rightly named Supplanter (Jacob)? For he hath supplanted me these two times”.

Yahweh’s selection is not haphazard. As the boys grew it became obvious that there was a marked difference in attitudes between them. Esau was a man of the fields and a cunning hunter, a man of flesh who loved the outdoors and the excitement of the chase. His tastes were all related to here and now and he had no interest in a promise of blessing that could not be seen and touched now. Jacob, on the other hand, was “a plain man” (“to be complete”, suggesting integrity and uprightness) and he dwelt in tents, not in the open field. He was spiritually developed at an early age and Yahweh loved him (Isa 43:1-4, 7; Mal 1:2,3). The contrast is graphically seen in Genesis 36:40-43, where the Dukes of Edom are named and the place of their habitation “in the land of their possession”: and Genesis 37:1 “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan”. God was right: there were “two manner of people” and it produced a situation in the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah which very nearly brought disaster to their household.

Esau Sells His Birthright

Isaac loved Esau “because he did eat of his venison” (Gen 25:28). This was not just because he “loved stew”, but the elderly, sober, quiet Isaac could no doubt picture the wildness, freedom, challenge and skill of the hunt, and his heart filled with pride at the “manliness” of his eldest son.

Rebekah had pledged her love long ago to Jacob because she knew he was to inherit the promise and the blessing of Abraham as Yahweh had foretold when the two manner of people struggled within her. When Esau burst into the tent exhausted, ravenous and with only one thought in his mind – Jacob seized his opportunity once again. When Esau smelled and saw the pottage that Jacob was boiling he cried, “Let me eat, I pray thee, some of this red, red thing”. The sale of his birthright meant nothing to Esau. “I am going to die, anyway: what use is a birthright to me – what use is a promise to me?” “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright” (Gen 25:34).

Here is a cameo of Esau’s life – he ate, drank, rose up and went his way. Paul calls him a“profane person” and a “fornicator” (Heb 12:16). His birthright entitled him to the right to rule, a double portion and the promised seed, but he was indifferent to spiritual matters and treated the promise with contempt. The fruitfulness of the earth, abundance of everything in this life: women, wealth, position and a possession in the land was Esau’s dream, despite the fact that his grandfather and his father were “strangers and pilgrims”, looking for a habitation from God and having “no continuing city” in the earth.

STUDY TWO: JACOB THE SUPPLANTER

Plans to Deceive Isaac

Isaac was 117 years old and although he lived another 64 years, he knew his frailty and “knew not the day of his death”. Moreover, “his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” and this was the case in more ways than one – spiritually as well as physi-cally. Yet Rebekah and he had agreed together that Esau’s way of life was unacceptable. He mixed in bad company and his Hittite wives were “a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (Gen 26:35). But Isaac, at this time, was in a dangerous frame of mind having, it seems, lost sight of the prophecy concerning his sons.

There is the danger in this permissive society in which we live that we can breed Esaus in our families. We encourage our children in higher and higher education to ensure that they are well qualified for lucrative employment because “we want the best for them”. The best is not to be found in this life. Our aim should be to use every means possible to prepare them for a position in the kingdom and to equip them to be profitable servants to our Heavenly Master. It seems that simple Bible words are losing their impact and it is certainly time we came to our senses before it is too late. Fortunately, Isaac became aware at last of the situation in which he had placed himself.

Isaac’s romantic image of Esau is seen in his request: “take, I pray thee, thy weapons,thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and hunt me some venison”. There was certainly something appealing in the picture for Isaac, apart from the prospect of “savoury meat, such as I love”. His intention was to partake of the meal, then give Esau the blessing; but covenants are not made over a meal of wild game (Lev 17:10-14; Deut 12:13-15).

As Isaac spoke to his son Esau, Rebekah was listening and passed the information on to her son, Jacob (Gen 27:5,6). In Rebekah – “the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian … the sister to Laban the Syrian” – the Syrian instinct was still operating. She made sure she was aware of everything going on around her and was particularly sensitive to anything concerned with Jacob. In the events unfolding, she perceived an opportunity to grasp for her son the blessing promised before his birth. Like Jacob, she had not yet learned to “wait upon Yahweh” (Hosea 12:6). Her motives were excellent, but her impatience and her desire for her son led her into the old paths of manipulation and deceit.

Isaac had sent Esau out to the field to hunt. Rebekah now sent Jacob to the flock to fetch “two kids of the goats”. Such was the offering later used on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:5). When Jacob described his brother as “a hairy man” the wordused means “shaggy as a he goat”, and this is how he was, a wild man. This, however, did not present a problem to Rebekah, nor did the garments he should wear, for she took “goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau” which she had with her, and dressed Jacob in these. The goodly “raiment” is the same word used of the priest’s garments (Exod 29:21) and belonged to Esau as the firstborn son whose duty it was to fulfil the role of priest in the family, but these garments were with Rebekah. There was no way Rebekah was prepared to allow Esau to assume this role which she had reserved for Jacob.

Jacob Supplants the Blessing

In response to Isaac’s question, “who art thou my son?” Jacob responded with a deliberate lie and when further questioned as to how he came to have returned with the animal so quickly, his response created immediate suspicion. “Yahweh, thy God brought it to me”. Esau would never have said such a thing. This was the “voice of Jacob” and so it seemed to Isaac. “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau”. Indeed it was so. Jacob’s actions at this time were like Esau. His motives were no doubt right but his actions wrong. However, Isaac seemed satisfied and having exercised his senses in smell, touch and taste, he blessed his son with a blessing relating to an abundance in this life, which Esau loved.

The Return of Esau

How great was his dismay, when scarcely had Jacob left and Esau entered with savoury meat and his demand for the blessing. Isaac “trembled with a great trembling greatly” (AV margin). Isaac knew that he had been deceived and Yahweh had found him out in his own weakness. This had a profound effect on Jacob and he never forgot the trembling of his father. His own respect grew, both for his father and the One whom his father revered, so that he later “sware by the fear of his father Isaac” (Gen 31:42, 51-53). Paul records in Hebrews 11:20 that it was BY FAITH that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come and whilst Esau desperately pleaded for the blessing he sought, he was unable in any way to change his father’s mind. “Is not he rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he took awaymy birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing.” In actual fact, this was not correct. Jacob had not “taken away” the birthright, but Esau had carelessly sold it to him.

Vengeance burned in Esau’s heart, but even so, his mother came to know of it and approached Isaac upon a matter in which they were totally agreed – the type of marriages contracted by their sons (Gen 26:34, 35; 27:46). Isaac agreed that Jacob should leave the home and seek a wife from Rebekah’s family. Now as Jacob leaves, Isaac gives to him the blessing in the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant – “El Shaddai (“nourisher or destroyer”, from a root “to bulge or swell” as a nursing mother or as a warrior), bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham” (Gen 28:3, 4). What is the blessing of Abraham for Jacob in a national sense? To turn away “every one of you from his iniquities”, to “turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Acts 3:25, 26; Rom 11:25-27).

When Esau saw that Jacob had gone to the family in Padan-Aram to seek a wife and that this appeared to please Isaac and Rebekah, he took to himself a wife of the daughters of Ishmael. In his mind he reasoned that if he married daughters of relatives, it would be fine! Esau saw absolutely no spiritual or moral implications in any of this. He was, as Paul says a “profane person”.

STUDY THREE: THE VISION OF BETHEL

So Jacob “went out”, evidently alone, from Beersheba (“well of the oath”) toward Haran (“dry and parched”), until he came to “a certain place” (Gen 28:11). The Hebrew actually says “the place” and the term is used three times in that verse. It was a special place and it would seem that Jacob made a deliberate effort to reach that particular place (a distance of about 40 miles or 64 kms) before sunset. This was the place where his grandfather Abraham had pitched his tent (Genesis 12:8; Hebrews 11:8- 10) and it was of great significance to Jacob.

Taking one of the stones of the place (as it should more correctly be) Jacob placed it for apillow and lay down to sleep. This stone he later anointed (Gen28:17-19), for this is the foundation stone of “the House of God” (Gen 28:22; 49:24; Isaiah 28:16).

He dreamed of a ladder (or “staircase”) which was set upon the earth and reaching up to heaven and upon it angels ascending and descending and “Yahweh stood by him” (verse 13 Rotherham, RV margin). They went from and returned to Jacob, in constant contact with him for they are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Heb 1:14). Jacob continued to experience their presence throughout his life (Genesis 48:15,16). We may compare Jacob’s experience with the Lord himself on whom the spirit descended and remained (John 1:33, 51).

Yahweh declared unto him, “I am Yahweh Elohim of Abraham thy father, and the Elohim of Isaac”. This identified Jacob as the true seed and rightful heir of the promise (compare verse 4). The promise had previously been given in the same explicit terms to Abraham (Gen 12:7) and Isaac (Gen 26:3). “Thou shalt spread abroad”, or more correctly “break forth”, ultimately beyond the boundaries of mere natural seed (Isa 14:1; 44:1-6) to encompass all the families of the earth. Then comes the assurance that he would return again to his land and that the angels would continue with him until all was accomplished in Yahweh’s purpose with Jacob (Gen 28:15). Jacob, like his descendants, was slow to grasp the assurance of God’s presence – “I knew it not”, he fearfully exclaimed. “How awesome is this place” (RSV) and he recognised it as the “House of God”. This is the only place of stability and truth for us and the only way to the Kingdom is to believe that the angels will never leave us nor forsake us for Yahweh is among His people. When Jacob suffered the vexatious conditions of Laban’s Syrian household, two wives constantly fighting and children who were always fractious, a father-inlaw scheming how much he could get out of him the next day and the cold and loneliness of looking after the sheep – how he would have dreamed of the stability and assurance of that moment in the “House of God” (see Isa 27:13).

At that time, Jacob vowed the vow “seeing God is with me, and hath kept me in this way which I am going” (Young’s Literal Translation), he would give the tenth to Him, which was really an acknowledg-ment that all belonged to God. Let us acknowledge this and that we too are “ready to perish”: then we will joyfully await the trumpet call to appear in God’s House and stand before the Power that followed Jacob in all his journeyings.

STUDY FOUR: JACOB AND LABAN

Arrival in Haran

Jacob’s first impressions of his mother’s people were not very encouraging. Three flocks of sheep were gathered beside the well, while their keepers waited for all the flocks to gather so they could roll away the stone from the well’s mouth and water the sheep and then all go on their way (Gen 29:2, 3, 7, 8). Jacob was not accustomed to such indolence. He could not understand such waste of time (verse 7). When Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, Jacob stepped forward and rolled the stone away and watered the sheep of “Laban his mother’s brother” (the expression is used three times in verse 10). By the time Jacob left Laban “his mother’s brother”, he had learned to reject the Syrian characteristics he had seen in them both and remembered his mother for the fact that she had left her people and come to trust under the wings of the God of Israel. Jacob now, at the end of a long journey, was full of emotion and wept as he met his cousin for the first time. He was to weep again, at the true end of a longer journey (Hosea 12:4).

Laban’s financial situation may be readily judged by the fact that it was Rachel who kept her father’s sheep. When Jacob left him he was a very rich man. His name means “white” (cp “Lebanon”) and his thoughts mainly centred on money and what he could get out of people. He robbed his daughters (Gen 31:15), cheated Jacob (Gen 30:33-36) and changed his wages ten times (Gen 31:41). He was a miser and saw immediately how he could use Jacob. He had heard of Abraham’s wealth (Gen 24:35) and now here was the heir. “Surely thou art my bone and my flesh”, said Laban and so Jacob was at that time, giving rise to a battle of wits that lasted forty years.

Israel Served for a Wife

Jacob enjoyed the free hospitality of Laban’s household for a month and then Laban’s mind quickly turned to mercenary matters. He assumed Jacob would serve him and with Syrian craftiness, called on him to name his wages. Jacob’s infatuation with the beautiful Rachel would not have escaped his notice and he was prepared for Jacob’s answer.

Rachel’s name means “little ewe lamb” and she appears to have inherited all her family’s duplicity of character, despite her natural beauty of form and countenance. Jacob, however, was captivated by her outward appearance and gladly entered into an agreement with Laban to serve seven years for his younger daughter. His elder daughter Leah had little to attract in the way of outward beauty: her true beauty lay within. Her name means “tender eyed” and it appears that Leah’s only claim to outward beauty was her eyes. Luke records the Lord’s words that “the light of the body is the eye” and Leah’s eyes shone with love, intelligence and depth of character.

When his seven years of service were fulfilled, Jacob claimed his wages and, according to custom, took his heavily veiled bride at night to his tent. In the light of morning he was dismayed to find he had been beguiled! In answer to his question “wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” Laban told Jacob, “It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn” (Genesis 29:26)! Neither was it so done in Jacob’s country and he would doubtless have deeply felt the thrust of this statement. The deceiver had been deceived by his mother’s brother, just as he and his mother had deceived Isaac over the matter of the firstborn.

Within a week, when the wedding festivities were at an end (Judges 14:12), Jacob found himself with two wives: Leah in whom he had been deceived and Rachel for whom he had now to work a further seven years. Along with the wives came also their two handmaids, Zilpah (“fragrance”) and Bilhah (“timid”). So began a period of domestic unhappiness between the two sisters (Lev 18:18) and later on, among the sons of Zilpah and Bilhah whose evil report came to the ears of Jacob (Gen 37:1, 2).

Birth of Leah’s Sons

“When Yahweh saw that Leah was hated…”. In actual fact she was “loved less” as the phrase means. Jacob could not fail to observe the quali-ties in his first wife and at the last he buried her in Machpelah where they finally lay, husband and wife, “folded together” (“Machpelah” Gen 49:31) in death. Meanwhile, however, her desperate need to secure her husband’s love caused her to dedicate her first three sons to him. When Reuben was born she jubilantly exclaimed, “Yahweh hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me”. Then followed Simeon (“hearing” – “because Yahweh hath heard that I was hated”) and Levi (“joined” – “now this time will my husband be joined unto me”). When Leah gave birth to her fourth son, she turned her thoughts in gentle submission to Yahweh and named him Judah – “praise” – saying, “now will I praise Yahweh” (Gen 29:32-35, cp Rom 2:29).

Rachel’s Wrestlings

Rachel “envied her sister”, despite the fact that she had the most precious and enviable possession – her husband’s love. Her attitude was reprehensible and her petulance inexcusable. Her unreasonable demand “give me children, or else I die” demonstrated a lack of faith and justifiably aroused Jacob’s anger. However, he acquiesced in his wife’s suggestion and took her maid Bilhah. Rachel named her firstborn by her handmaid “Dan”, for she said “God hath vindicated me” (Jerusalem Bible says, “God has done me justice”). How could she believe such a thing when her motives were so unworthy? at least Sarah in a similar position had religious motives (Gen16:2).

When a second son was born to Bilhah, Rachel named him Naphtali because “with great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed” – a real “Syrian” victory – “I have prevailed”. Rachel’s wrestlings were for selfish reasons; she wrestled and conquered her sister. Jacob wrestled with an angel; Yahweh prevailed and Jacob conquered self.

STUDY FIVE – EXHORTATION: ISRAEL – POWER WITH GOD

Preparations to Meet Esau
Jacob had spent 40 years in Laban’s household duringwhich time he had been thoroughly educated and totally changed. Now the time had come for him to return unto the land of his fathers, and to his kindred (Gen 31:3). The record says “Jacob went on his way”, and it was his way – the way that Yahweh always intended him to go. Jacob and Laban had met together at a place in what is now the Golan Heights. There they had set up a pillar of stones which they each called “a heap of witness”, Laban in the Chaldee tongue and Jacob in Hebrew, which was “Galeed” or “Gilead”. It was at that point that Laban turned and went one way and Jacob went his way, leaving the Syrian behind (Gen 31:45-47 cp Jer 31:21).

Yahweh had promised “I will be with thee” as soon as he returned and now on the way angels met him as he turned south. For each of us, there is a point in life when we turn our back on our pride, self-sufficiency, ingenuity and duplicity: then the angels of God are with us to strengthen us on our way. Jacob actually saw them but we know that “the angel of Yahweh encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7). Jacob therefore called the place “Mahanaim” (“two camps or hosts”, that is Jacob and Yahweh), because he said “this is God’s host” (Hebrew ‘machenah’ – “encampment”).

Approaching the territory of Esau, Jacob sent messengers ahead into the land of Seir (“rough, hairy”), the country (“field” – see margin) of Edom. This was Esau’s kind of country. It was wild, rough and adventurous with open fields and although Esau had not as yet settled there, it suited him well.

Jacob’s message was extremely conciliatory and designed to be reassuring. “Thy servant Jacob… my Lord Esau”; his approach was apologetic and an attempt to make amends for his wrong. Truly in a worldly sense Esau was his Lord and the material firstborn; and five times Jacob addresses him as “my Lord”, seeking grace in his sight. He assured Esau that he had no desire for his material wealth. Jacob had all he needed of this world’s goods and that was all Esau cared about.

The messenger’s return brought news that was not encouraging for Jacob; Esau approached with a company of 400 men. There could be no doubt of his belligerent intentions and once again the “Syrian” arose in Jacob. He was greatly afraid, resorting to stratagems and contriving manoeuvres (see Jer30:5, 7, 8 and Isa 41:10-14). He divided his people into two companies; and yet he was already two companies – himself and Yahweh (Genesis 32:1, 2).

Jacob’s Prayer

Jacob’s prayer to Yahweh is not without anxiety and doubt as he seeks reassurance on the basis of Yahweh’s past mercies to him and His promise that He would deal well with Jacob (Gen 32:9-12). With true humility, he acknowledges his own smallness (“I am not worthy” means literally “I am too small”) and Yahweh’s great mercies. “With only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I am become two companies” (RSV). His life closed “leaning upon the top of his staff” (Gen 47:31 cp Heb 11:21) so that for Jacob his staff was a symbol of the Divine presence. In his present great distress, he pictured the horror of the mothers falling upon their dead children (as in Hosea 10:14) and yet Yahweh had said he would make his seed as the sand of the sea. Such was the challenge to Jacob’s faith at this time.

More Preparations to Meet Esau

To further prepare to meet his brother, Jacob “took of that which came to his hand” or “…under his hand”: those things under his control. A present of five droves of animals by the hands of his servants was sent to Esau, with a space between each drove. The word “space” (Gen 32:16) means “a breathing space” and the only other occurrence of the word is in Esther 4:14 where it is rendered “enlargement” or, as the margin says “respiration”. Here is another typical manoeuvre designed to deliver the present (“minchah”) to Esau in the most impressive manner and to gain time, with each servant delivering the same message to “my lord Esau” from “thy servant Jacob”. Jacob’s intention was to appease his brother (Gen 32:20). The Hebrew sense of this verse is “I will cover his face with the present that goeth before my face, and afterward I shall see his face; peradventure he will accept my face”. And then he wrestled with the Angel and came face to face with God and realised that was the only face he had to be concerned about. But for the time he was very concerned with the face of his brother and when eventually they met in peace he said: “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Gen 33:10). Such talk was totally lost on Esau, but Jacob knew very well that it was indeed God Who had changed Esau’s face from animosity to temporary friendship.

Power Over the Angel

Having sent his family and possessions over Jabbok under cover of darkness, Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Hosea tells us it was an angel that wrestled with him (Hosea 12:4). The lesson intensifies – first he saw a vision of angels ascending and descending; then he was surrounded by God’s host, and now he is with God face to face (Gen 32:30). As they clung to each other, rolling and struggling to gain the victory, Jacob found himself face to face with the Angel throughout that long night of his anxiety. Jacob was determined to prevail but his real “power over the angel” consisted in his tears of submission at the last (Hosea 12:4). When the angel saw that he could not prevail (verse 25) he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh – the strongest muscle in a man’s body and Yahweh’s portion of the sacrifice under the Law. His thigh was “out of joint” which indicates that the whole hip joint was out of its socket and the muscle withered and shrunk. The Lord is described, in the prophetic Psalm 22, as having all his bones out of joint, but “our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them”. Then the Psalmist calls on all who are united in Jacob to praise Yahweh: “…all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him;…for he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard”.

Jacob clung to the one who afflicted him – “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me”. The angel exerted just enough pressure to test the strength of his resolution; he could have brought the struggle to an end in a moment. The angel will do this to us; he will exert just enough pressure to see how really resolved we are, to see if we will really continue to cling to him. And the pressure will be more than we estimate as God asks, “just how much do you really believe in Me?”

“What is your name?” The Angel knew Jacob’s name, but what he was really asking was, “What do you think of yourself?” Jacob answered as if it were a confession – “I am a supplanter” (Jacob). “Thy name shall be called no more Supplanter, but Prince with God (Israel).” He was now a “Prince” having power with God and with men. He would be successful with Esau only because he had prevailed with God. When Jacob asked the Angel his name, his reply was, “It’s got nothing to do with you – the thing is what is your name?”. The Angel’s name was not revealed to him until God “found him in Beth-el” (Hosea 12:4, 5).

So Jacob named the place “Peniel” (“faces of Elohim”), because he had come face to face with God and in answer to his prayer (Gen 32:11), he was delivered. Jacob had spent his life to this point in planning, scheming, manipulating, outwitting and struggling to prevail in his own strength and at the appointed time, when he realised where his strength really lay, Yahweh said “command deliverances for Jacob” (Psalm 44:1-7).

STUDY SIX: THE STRENGTH OF THE HOUSE OF GOD

Command to Return to Beth-el

Having dwelt in Shechem and suffered the violent behaviour of his family, Jacob received the command: “Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there”. On the first occasion Jacob went to Beth-el alone and in fear of his brother Esau, on his way to Padan-aram. Now, as a changed man, Yahweh summoned him to the same place to build an altar unto the Power that appeared to him “when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother”(Gen 35:1, 7). The point is very clearly made that the altar commemorated the power of the Almighty when he desperately needed it. In each case, Yahweh’s power is set against Jacob’s weakness.

In preparation, Jacob said to his household: “Put away the strange gods that are among you”. They were right in the midst of his household, for Rachel had brought with her Laban’s idols. Doubtless there were also Syrian strangers and some from Shechem (Gen 34:29) who had joined themselves to Jacob, for Jacob spoke to his household “and all that were with him”. Not only did they have to remove their idols but to change their garments also. It is certainly important to give careful attention to how we are dressed when we appear before our God (Isa 3:9).

All these things were handed over to Jacob and he hid them “under the oak which was byShechem”. In later times when Joshua gathered the children of Israel at the same place he called upon them to “put away the strange gods” that were among them and to choose whom they would serve. He called the place “the sanctuary of Yahweh” because of that which it memorialised; it was a sanctified memory of separation (Josh 24:23-26). The woman of Samaria had a choice to make at that same place: “Ye worship ye know not what … salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:21, 22). We face a vital choice in this day. The Truth provides everything we could possibly want or desire, with blessings in abundance in this life as well as the glorious promise of that day to come.

Jacob journeyed through the land until he came to Beth-el “and all the people that were with him”. Previously he had come alone and now he is a company, who cause the terror of God to come on all the cities as they pass. With the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, and her burial under the oak in Beth-el, all that was Syrian had symbolically been removed.

He Found Him in Beth-el

Jacob now having obeyed the call to come out, God now met him at Beth-el and reiterated the promise. He re-named him finally as Israel and called him by that name (Gen 35:10). Here was a formal ratification of the promise and a personal manifestation in which God found Jacob and “spake with us” (Hosea 12:4, 13-14), but it was on the basis of his “coming out” and it is upon the same principle that God will find us and speak with us (2 Cor 6:17, 18).

“And God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.” God had said, “I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen 28:15); and now He “went up from him”, having accomplished in Jacob that which He purposed.

The Death of Rachel

As the company of Jacob journeyed from Beth-el, the time came for Rachel to give birth when they had only “a little way to come to Ephrath”. Ephrath (“which is Bethlehem” – Gen 35:19) means “fruitfulness” (Gen 35:11, “be fruitful”) but Rachel died before they reached the place (Gen 48:7). There was another son, however, born in Bethlehem who at-tained unto the blessing of fruitfulness promised to Jacob. Rachel stands as a type of natural Israel (Jer 31:15-17). She named her son “Ben-oni” (“son of my sorrow”), which is how Israel perceived their Messiah (Isa 53:3); but his father named him “Benjamin” (“son of my right hand”) – the only son out of the whole twelve named by “his father”, by which we understand that this is typical of Yahweh and His son.

The record says significantly, “Jacob set a pillar upon her grave…and Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar”. The prophet Micah picks up this whole incident in a dramatic commentary: “And thou, O tower of the flock (Edar – see margin), the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion…” (see Micah 4:8-10; 5:2, 3). The purpose of God had to be completed with Israel after the flesh before Israel – “powerful with God” – could prosper. The Syrian had to be purged out before the man of the spirit could prevail.

Jacob has become great and is going to spread his tent beyond Edar and the land is going to be given to him and to his seed. We are living in an epoch of time when all these things are going to come to pass and the great God of Beth-el, Who has overshadowed our pilgrimage, is going to bring us at last not only to the “house of God” but to the “strength of the house of God”. And when we have rid ourselves of all the idols in our ears and on our hands and attired ourselves in the virtue of Him that has loved us, and put on the garments of praise, and look like Christadelphians and as though we mean what we say; and when we have come out of Syria and got Syria out of us and buried it all under our feet at last – then we will stand tall and God will appear in the earth in the person of His Son. Then He will say, “your name is…Jesus Christ”. We are incorporated in His Son and if we are in His Son, we are in the Father and we are the Yahweh Name now – not “He Who Will Be” but “He Who IS”: “and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:17, 18).