Jesus and Jacob, the Wilderness and More

Ein Gedi, Israel

Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27

It is common knowledge that God renamed Jacob to Israel. The name of “Israel” has been found, as is generally believed, in the inscription of the Egyptian king, Merneptah (circ. 1230 b.c.), as Ysir’r; and in Assyrian inscriptions as Sirlai.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Jacob’s Wilderness

Genesis 32:24-28 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (emphasis added)

Especially notice that this event occurred when Jacob was left alone. He had sent his family and all his tribe ahead of him. So he was alone. And in this God-ordained time, a great transition took place that echoes through thousands of years and into our present day, for Israel is often in the news. By the way, like a good dad, God let Jacob win. 😉

Christ’s Wilderness

Mark 1:12-13 The Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Now notice Jacob’s experience was a foreshadowing of Jesus. Jacob was out in the wilderness, as was Jesus. Jacob was tested, as was Jesus. Jacob prevailed, as did Jesus. Jacob was a changed man after this event. He was Israel. He is included, throughout God’s Word in the phrase, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). Jesus was on spiritually fire when He came out of the wilderness.

We read in Genesis 32:24-28 that Jacob wrestled with a unique person (“you have striven with God”). Many theologians believe the person Jacob wrestled with was the pre-incarnate Jesus. This seems likely as Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, very likely entertained the pre-incarnate Jesus. (Genesis 18:2)

When Jesus came out of the wilderness, after being tested, He fully began His ministry. He declared, “The time is fulfilled,” He said, “and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the gospel!” (Mark 1:14-15)

Jacob Foreshadows Jesus

Here are a couple of additional aspects of Jacob being a “type” or “foreshadowing” of Jesus:

Jacob suffered from his brother Esau, who hated him enough to kill him. Therefore, Jacob was a man of suffering and troubles (Gen 47: 9).  Likewise, Christ suffered from His fellow Jews, who planned many times to kill Him, and finally did so. Therefore, Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa 53: 3)

Isaac, Jacob and Esau’s father said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” (Gen 27: 22). We see this demonstrated by Jesus, for He carried our sins although He is sinless.  His voice was the voice of the beloved, only begotten Son of God, while His hands are ours; He carried our nature in Him (Isa 53: 6) and it was His hands and feet that received the nails on the cross.

Wrapping Up

Recently, I read a powerful statement concerning Jacob and Jesus, but I’ve lost the citation. This person wrote, “To be alone with Christ is the only way to arrive at a knowledge of ourselves and our ways. Jacob was a wrestled-with man, and until the seat of his own strength was touched, he did not reach the place of blessing.

Sometimes we dare to wrestle with God. When we do so, we should find a place of solitude, for it is in solitude, with Jesus Christ, that our greatest victories come.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

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