The Glory of the Story Sample: Day 112 – Jacob the prototype of Israel

Reading: Hosea 11:12-12:6

Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.

In today’s passage God rebukes both Israel (also called Ephraim) and Judah for pretending loyalty to him while living deep in deceit and idolatry. In seeking national prosperity while disregarding him, they are striving for the unattainable; pursuing the wind (1; cf. Eccles. 2:11). This is seen in their deceitful foreign policy. Instead of depending on God they are receiving help from Assyria, while at the same time trying to buy the support of Assyria’s enemy, Egypt (1). So Hosea reminds them of their roots in three incidents from the life of Jacob (3-4) – not in chronological order:

(i) At birth Jacob grasped his brother’s heel, an action which turned out to be prophetic of his attitude to life. So he was chosen despite weakness of character.

(ii) At Peniel Jacob humbled himself, begged for God’s favour and was renamed Israel.

(iii) At Bethel Jacob was overwhelmed by God’s grace. As a runaway from Esau (and God), God ‘found him … and talked with him there’.

Hosea is showing that Jacob the man is a kind of prototype of Israel the nation. Like Jacob, they have nothing to commend themselves (cf. Deut. 32:9-12). Israel was born when Jacob finally abandoned his own agenda (deliverance from Esau) and his own resources, and clung in desperation to God. Peniel was where they received the name ‘Israel’ and the eating custom associated with it (Gen. 32:32). No Israelite was intended to forget his roots. Israel’s tragedy, however, was that she always inclined to be Jacob and use God for her own ends.

This is the paradox at the heart of the nation’s life. They are both Jacob and Israel, and God is both their Saviour striving to bless them and their enemy fighting against them (Is.63: 9-10). Jacob has passed his unsavoury characteristics to his descendants. But if they turn from their Jacob-like duplicity and self-sufficiency, God will deliver them as he did Jacob (6). He is still the God of Bethel, the God of power and graciousness and the LORD is his name of renown (5), his covenant name (Exod. 3:14). And because God does not change, the descendants of Jacob are not destroyed (Mal. 3:6).

Closing thought
The continuing use of the name Jacob as well as Israel throughout the OT can be compared to that of Simon in the NT (compare John1:42 with Luke 22:31). What can we as Christians learn from this?


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