Jacob - Israel
1 Chronicles 2:1
These are the sons of Israel; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun,…

Mistake is often made concerning Jacob, and his character and conduct are very imperfectly estimated. He is set in contrast with the open-hearted, impulsive, and generous Esau, to his great disadvantage. But we forget that we are able to estimate Jacob's character more fully because the process of his moral and spiritual training, in the Divine providential leadings, is detailed, and we therefore have so much of his badness revealed to us in the process. We do not really know Esau as we know Jacob. The accounts that have reached us concerning him only deal with what appears to be attractive and good, and we see very few indications of the badness which his complete story might bring to light. Jacob is set before us as a man under immediate Divine training, and something like the accomplishment of one great stage of the Divine purpose is indicated in the bestowment of the new name, Israel. The meaning of the two names Jacob - the supplanter, Israel - the prince of God, should be given; and the circumstances connected with the affixing of each name should be recalled. They serve to note the marked features of the two distinct portions of Jacob's life.

I. JACOB'S FIRST NAME - THE SUPPLANTER. This declares the infirmity of his natural disposition. It is clear, from the record given in Genesis, that he began life under very serious disabilities, heavily weighted. The doctrine of heredity finds forcible illustration. He inherited his mother's disposition - a tendency to scheme, to outwit others, to take advantage of them, to trip them up, to get one's own good even at the expense of other people's loss; the planning, bargaining, keen-dealing spirit. This inherited evil disposition so influences him that he "entraps his brother, he deceives his father, he makes a bargain even in his prayer; in his dealings with Laban, in his meeting with Esau, he still calculates and contrives; he distrusts his neigh-hours... he repels, even in his lesser traits, the free confidence that we cannot withhold from the patriarchs of the elder generation." What he might have become but for the grace of God is well indicated in Dean Stanley's description of the ordinary Arab sheikh: "In every respect, except that which most concerns us, the likeness is complete between the Bedouin chief of the present day and the Bedouin chief who came from Chaldaea nearly four thousand years ago. The more we see the outward conformity of Abraham and his immediate descendants to the godless, grasping, foulmouthed Arabs of the modern desert, nay, even their fellowship in the infirmities of their common state and country, the more we shall recognize the force of the religious faith which has raised them from that low estate to be the heroes and saints of their people." To add to Jacob's natural disabilities, he was the favourite child of his mother, and, for long years, was placed under her influence and the persuasion of her mischievous example. This tended to remove the sense of evil from his scheming and deceiving ways. And circumstances seemed to favour him; his brother's hunger and his father's blindness seemed to be providential openings for carrying out his mother's plan for securing the birthright and the blessing. So often we deceive ourselves with the idea that Providence helps us to do what we, in our mere wilfulness, intend to do. All we can say of Jacob, under his first name, is that there is force of character, if only it can be toned aright; and there is an interest in religious things, a religious thoughtfulness, which gives promise of a true and noble life when he has passed through a long period of trial and sorrow and discipline. With all his infirmities, and with that sad absence of simplicity and uprightness in him, there is yet the making of the good man. And so, even in these first stages, his story carries lessons of hopefulness to those who feel deeply the natural infirmity of their characters, or have to do with the training of young people who are heavily weighted with inherited infirmities.

II. JACOB'S SECOND NAME - THE PRINCE OF GOD. This declares the possible triumph of Divine grace over natural infirmity. We must connect it, not with the incident of meeting Esau only, but with Jacob's whole life. It seals the Divine training, and affirms Jacob's conversion from the self-willed and self-seeking spirit. "Jacob has gone through a long training and chastening from the God of his fathers, to whose care and guidance he had given himself (at Bethel); he suffers heavily, but he learns from that he suffered." Trace the stages of the Divine dealing. The force of the scene of Mahanaim in completing the Divine work is suggestively given by F. W. Robertson: "His name was changed from Jacob to Israel, because himself was an altered man. Hitherto there had been something subtle in his character - a certain cunning and craft - a want of breadth, as if he had no firm footing upon reality. Jacob was tender and devout and grateful for God's pardon, and only half honest still. But this half-insincere man is brought into contact with the awful God, and his subtlety falls from him - he becomes real at once. No longer Jacob - the supplanter, but Israel - the prince of God... a larger, more unselfish name - a larger and more unselfish man - honest and true at last." This, then, becomes the great and searching question for us all: not, "What are we in our inherited tendencies and natural dispositions?" but, "What are we now, and what are we becoming, in all holy triumph over inward infirmities and outward foes, through yielding ourselves fully to the leadings and teachings and sanctifyings of Divine grace? And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." ? R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: These are the sons of Israel; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun,

WEB: These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun,

Top of Page
Top of Page