Why Was Jacob’s Name Changed to Israel and What Is Its Significance?

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. Perhaps you are familiar with the story. But, in case you are not, I will tell it to you.

God appeared to Jacob as he came from Paddan-aram and blessed him. God said that his name was Jacob, but Jacob should not be his name any longer. From now on, his name should be Israel. God told Jacob that his own name was God Almighty (El Shaddai). God Almighty then commanded Jacob to be fruitful and multiply. He told Jacob that a nation and a company of nations as well as kings would come from him. God Almighty was going to give Jacob and his offspring the land that he gave to Abraham and Isaac. So, Jacob set up a pillar of stone and poured a drink offering and oil on the pillar of stone. Jacob called the place Bethel.

Is that the story you were expecting to hear?

Probably not.

You were probably expecting to me to tell you how Jacob sent his family across the Jabbok stream, but Jacob stayed alone on the other side of the stream. During the night, he wrestled with a man until day broke. The man was not able to prevail against Jacob so he put Jacob’s hip out of joint. The man asked Jacob to let him go, but Jacob said he wouldn’t let the man go until he blessed him. The man asked Jacob his name. When the man was told it was Jacob, the man said that he would no longer be called Jacob but Israel, since he had striven with God and men and prevailed. Jacob asked the man his name, but the man did not tell Jacob. The man merely asked Jacob why he wanted to know. So, Jacob called the place Peniel because he had seen God face to face and lived. The sun came up on Jacob as he passed Penuel. Therefore, the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh on the hip socket.

If you are familiar with the story of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel, then that is most likely the story you are familiar with. But, this story is completely different in every way than the first one I told. The first account in this post is from Genesis 35.9-15. The second account, the more familiar one, is from Genesis 32.22-32.

What is going on here?

Why are there two completely different accounts about the changing of Jacob’s name to Israel in the Bible?

Both accounts are from the book of Genesis. In fact, these accounts are just a few pages apart in the modern Bible.

Did Moses forget what he wrote in the first one when he wrote the second one?

Or, did Moses not write either account?

After reading Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman at the end of last year, I have come to believe that Moses did not actually write either account. In fact, Moses most likely did not write any of the first five books of the Bible, at least in the form that we have them.

In Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman persuasively shows that there were actually four writers of the first five books of the Bible. This is commonly known as the JEPD theory. The letters JEPD stand for the “identity” of the four writers. Based on a combination of textual, linguistic, historical, and archaeological data, scholars have been able to identify four (at least) separate writers of the first five books of the Bible as well as which particular parts of those five books they wrote. I will summarize the identity of the four writers according to Friedman below.

The J stands for Jehovah. This writer only referred to God as Yahweh, or Jehovah, and therefore the letter “J” is used to identify him. This writer was someone particularly concerned with the kingdom of Judah. He focused on the patriarchs, the Abrahamic covenant, and the family of David.

The E stands for Elohim. This writer always referred to God as Elohim. That is, until Moses saw God in the burning bush and God told him that his name was I Am That I Am, or Yahweh. This writer was likely a Levite priest from Shiloh and a descendant of Moses. Unlike the J writer, the E writer emphasized the Mosaic covenant.

The P stands for Priest. Like the E writer, this writer likely was a priest too. However, the P writer most likely descended from Aaron and lived in Jerusalem. The P writer most likely wrote after the J and E writers. The P writer follows the same stories in the same order but retells the stories in a different way to emphasize the Aaronic priesthood in Jerusalem. In fact, the P writer distinguishes between the priests, who were from Aaron, and the Levites.

The D stands for Deuteronomist. The D writer wove the writings of J, E, and P together and wrote the entire book of Deuteronomy. That’s all I will say about the D writer because the D writer does not factor all that much in to Jacob’s name change for the purposes of this post.

In Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman shows that each of these writers retold the history of Israel from a specific perspective. And, that retelling was crafted in a way to add credibility, weight, gravitas, to the kingdom – the northern or southern, Israel or Judah – they were from or their class of the priesthood.

So, about those two completely different stories of Jacob’s name being changed to Israel…

The account in Genesis 32.22-32, the more familiar account of Jacob wrestling with an unidentified man, was written by the E writer. The less well-known, certainly the less talked about, account in Genesis 35.9-15 was written by the P writer. We know this because of how the stories were told.

The P writer only has priests as the intermediary between God and man. The P writer never mentions angels. He never uses anthropomorphisms, dreams, or talking animals to reveal God. The accounts of the P writer tend to be shorter and more matter of fact. For the P writer, God is more cosmic and distant. This is exactly how the story of Jacob’s name change is told in Genesis 35.9-15.

Yet, the account in Genesis 32.22-32 has a mysterious, unidentified man wrestle with Jacob. Jacob believed this person to be God in some way. The E writer anthropomorphized God in his retelling of the story. God is more personal for the E writer in that Jacob believed he wrestled God in hand-to-hand combat and Jacob declared that he saw God face to face.

But, why two different accounts retold in two different ways?

What was the significance of these stories to these two writers?

Ultimately, these stories were about how Jacob/Israel received not just a blessing from God but the blessing of God. Therefore, the E and P writers were trying to lay claim to the blessing God gave Abraham for their kingdom/priesthood. You know…the blessing where God told Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12.2), “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.3), and “to your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12.7).

Remember, the E writer wrote from the perspective of the northern kingdom, Israel, and the Levites that descended from Moses. But, the P writer wrote from the perspective of the southern kingdom, Judah, and the descendants of Aaron. Hence, the P writer was more focused on Jerusalem, which was ultimately the capital of the southern kingdom, Judah.

Interestingly, the J writer records nothing about Jacob’s name being changed to Israel. But, that doesn’t mean the J writer had nothing to say about how Jacob got the blessing. The J writer told how Jacob got the blessing when Jacob tricked or deceived (some would say stole) Esau out of his birthright (Genesis 25.29-34 and 27.1-45).

Why would the J writer recount Jacob instead of Esau receiving the blessing given originally to Abraham this way?

Why would the J writer portray Jacob in a negative light?

Remember, the J writer wrote from the perspective of the kingdom of Judah and the family of David. Judah sat between Israel and Edom, the kingdom that came from Esau. Israel was to the north while Edom was to the south of Judah. At one time, David had conquered Edom and effectively made it part of the kingdom of Judah. But, Jacob was more associated with the northern kingdom of Israel. John 4.4-6 says, “And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there.” This is why the Samaritan woman (Samaria being synonymous with the northern kingdom of Israel) at the well said to Jesus, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” (John 4.11-12)

In a subtle way, the J writer was saying that the northern kingdom, Israel, which was closely associated with Jacob, could only lay claim to Abraham’s blessing from God because Jacob tricked Esau and deceived Isaac into giving it to him. But, Judah, the kingdom of David, could lay claim to that blessing because David defeated Edom, the kingdom of Esau. Further, David had conquered lands in the northern kingdom too. Therefore, David, and consequently Judah, had a much more legitimate claim to the blessing of Abraham.

However, the E writer was laying claim to the blessing for the northern kingdom, Israel. In the E writer’s account of Jacob’s name change to Israel, Jacob says to the unidentified man, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” (Genesis 32.26) Jacob believed he received that blessing because wrestled and prevailed against this unidentified man. Even though Jacob never gets the man’s name, he calls the name of the place Peniel. “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32.30) Peniel, or Penuel, was in the northern kingdom, almost due east of Shechem. It was in the tribe of Gad, which meant it was on the east side of Jordan. So, the city that the E writer mentions as important was in the northern kingdom.

But, interestingly, it was not a city of religious importance in the northern kingdom. It was not Dan or Bethel, which were the cities Jeroboam set up as religious centers of worship. Nor did the writer mention Shiloh, which was in the northern kingdom and one of the resting places for the tabernacle. Nor was it one of the three cities that Samuel went to on his circuit of judging. Remember, the E writer is writing from the perspective of a Levite priest descended from Moses in the northern kingdom of Israel. This priest likely favored the northern kingdom politically but not religiously. Politically, because the northern kingdom did not have the place of centralized worship (Jerusalem) that the Aaronic priesthood had control over in Judah. Not religiously, because Jeroboam had set up his own priesthood passing over the Levites. Hence, the E writer associated a city that was in the northern kingdom but not a city of worship in that kingdom to the Jacob’s name change.

The E writer’s account also alludes to Moses because Jacob says he saw God face to face. There is only one other person in the first five books of the Bible that saw God face to face and that was Moses. But, unlike Jacob, Moses got the name of God when he encountered God. Therefore, Moses had more importance than Jacob. So, we can see the elements of the E writer’s story of Jacob’s name change to Israel fit with a Levite in the line of Moses in the northern kingdom trying to lay claim to Abraham’s blessing from God.

The elements of the story in the P account try to lay claim to that blessing too. The P writer does it more blatantly though. In his account, Jacob doesn’t ask for a blessing in a subtle allusion to Abraham’s blessing by God. In the P account, God tells Jacob, “Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” (Genesis 35.11) This story is very much about who really has the blessing God gave Abraham. In fact, God gave Jacob the same commission he gave to Adam and the patriarchs.

For the P writer, who has claim to that blessing has to do with worship, which is why the P writer’s account has “Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he [God] had spoke with him, a pillar of stone. He [Jacob] poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it.” (Genesis 35.14) Jacob called the place Bethel. Yes, Bethel was one of the places Jeroboam put a center of worship in the northern kingdom. But, it was on the border of the kingdom of Israel and Judah. Technically, Bethel was in Benjamin. And, at one point had been conquered by David. Plus, when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, it did not capture Bethel, which became a part of Judah. Hence, the P writer could be seen as laying claim to Bethel for the kingdom of Judah.

Further, in the P writer’s account, Jacob does get the name of God. God identifies himself to Jacob as God Almighty, or El Shaddai. Psalm 91 speaks of the shadow of Shaddai. This shadow was under the wings of the cherubim in the most holy place of the temple. Psalm 91 was written by David, which would please the P writer since David was from Judah. Further, only a priest from the line of Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place because the high priest always came from the descendants of Aaron. Therefore, the P writer is emphasizing that Jerusalem, Judah, and the Aaronic priesthood have the best claim to the God’s blessing of Abraham because Jerusalem was the place of centralized worship. That is perhaps why the name El Shaddai is mentioned in this account of Jacob’s name change to Israel as an attempt by a priest of Aaron in Jerusalem to lay claim to the the blessing of Abraham.

There is so much more that could be said about the different accounts of how Jacob became the heir of the blessing of Abraham and his name change to Israel. Clearly, it is not what appears to us on the surface thousands of years later. And, we haven’t even spoken of the wrestling (the Hebrew word is used only in this story) between Jacob and the unidentified man or the strange saying about not eating the sinew from the hip because Jacob’s hip was put of socket in the wrestling match.

But, does any of the underlying political and theological intrigue that motivated these writers even matter to us today?

What significance does any of this have for us?

Is it even important to us what this may have meant to the original writers and hearers?

Does the “plain” meaning, if there even is one, matter to us today?

Or, is there an inspired meaning to Jacob’s name change to Israel, a meaning beyond what the original writers intended, that is just as important today as ever?

Ultimately, what matters to us is that Jesus is true Israel – not a certain ethnic group of people or certain small plot of land in the Middle East.

Isaiah 49.3, 5-6 says, “And he said to me, You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’…And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him – for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength – he says: ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Luke applies this passage to Jesus in Luke 2.29-32. Jesus is the true Israel. Jesus – not some faction of the nation, kingdom, priests, or people of earthly Israel – is the one to whom the promises of Abraham belong.

Paul explicitly says this in Galatians 3.16 – “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offpsrings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Or, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1.20, “For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

Remember those blessings..the blessing where God told Abraham that “I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12.2), “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12.3), and “to your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12.7).

They belong to Jesus. Those that find their identity in Jesus, true Israel (Romans 10 and 11), are the great nation God made of Jesus.

They speak of all peoples, nations, tribes, and languages belonging to Jesus and being blessed by him.

They refer to Jesus receiving all the land on the entire earth as his.

Jacob’s name change to Israel is not important so that a country almost 3,000 years later called Israel can lay claim to the blessing God gave Abraham.

The name change is important and has its meaning in Jesus and Jesus alone.

God Provides Himself the Lamb

In addition to the written teaching below, here’s the audio to tonight’s CUMO Mid-Week Bible Study.

Genesis 22 is one of the most well-known and most important chapters in the Bible. It is the story of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham’s obedience to God, and God providing the lamb in the place of Isaac. I rarely look at commentaries anymore, I looked through eight to 10 to see what they said about the climactic event of Abraham’s life. While commentaries have some useful information, I wasn’t surprised to find that the commentaries rarely, if ever, mentioned Jesus (which is why I rarely read commentaries anymore). I find this astounding, considering that Genesis 22 is an astounding prophetic revelation of Jesus.

Let’s take a look, sort of verse by verse, to see Jesus.

AFTER THESE THINGS

Genesis 22:1 begins “After these things…”

After what things?

Well, everything from Genesis 12 through Genesis 21.

Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

The very first thing we read about Abram is that God calls him to be a great nation and that Abram will both be blessed and be a blessing. God could only fulfill his promise to Abram if he had a son. But, at this time Abram has no son, which is somewhat ironic since Abram’s name means exalted father.” At the time of God’s call, Abram was 75 years old.

In Canaan, “the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Genesis 12:7) The Hebrew word for offspring also means seed and derives from the root word meaning to sow. From chapter 12 through chapter 22, offspring occurs 23 times. While, I haven’t studied Hebrew, I want to throw out the idea that a number of these 23 uses of the word offspring are used with the concept “your sowed seed” being implied. I say this because in John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Abram’s seed needs to be planted. The seed needs to die.

Abram’s offspring:

  • will be given Canaan (Genesis 12:7)
  • will be given Canaan and counted as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:15-16)
  • shall be numbered [not counted, but written about] as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:13)
  • will be given the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18)
  • will be given and keep an established covenant and will be given all the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-12)
  • will have a covenant established with Isaac and his offspring (Genesis 17:19)
  • will have his offspring named through Isaac (Genesis 21:12)

In chapter 17, God reiterates his promise to and covenant with Abram. And, God changes his name to Abraham, which means exalted father of a multitude. At this time, Abram has a son Ishmael, but Abraham does not have the son of the promise yet. However, God says that from the son, Isaac, Abraham’s offspring will be named. In chapter 17, Abraham is 99 years old. So, 24 years have passed since God first called and made his promise to Abraham.

One year later, Abraham finally has the son, Isaac, in Genesis 21. So, the son came 25 years after the initial promise from God.

It’s “after these things” that Genesis 22 takes place.

GOD TESTED ABRAHAM

Genesis 22:1 says, “After these things God tested Abraham.” This is the first use in the Bible of the Hebrew word nasa. Nasa means to venture; to put someone to the test; to give experience, train; to conduct a test. A test is a critical examination, observation, or evaluation. As the first test in the Bible, Abraham’s test sets the precedent for all future testing.

So, what is God testing Abraham on?

To understand God’s testing of Abraham, we need to see that Jesus was tested. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” What does it mean that Jesus learned obedience? If Jesus always obeyed, then what does it mean that he learned obedience? Jesus didn’t learn to obey, but he did learn the cost of obeying. He learned this by being tested. The Greek word for “learned” denotes the action of deciphering the meaning of information both practically and conceptually. Jesus learned what it meant to obey.

What did Jesus’ testing lead to? Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus’ testing led his death, burial, and resurrection. This is the gospel.

Is this what Abraham is being tested on?

In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 when he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

So, what did Abraham believe?

Galatians 3:5-8 says, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or hearing by faith – just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”

Abraham had the gospel preached to him and he believed it. Read The Scripture Preached the Gospel to Abraham? to see how that happened.

Therefore, in Genesis 22, God was testing Abraham’s belief.

Abraham’s test was about God providing his own son as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world to die for his sins and that God’s son would be resurrected to give life. If Abraham passed the test, then this gospel would be how all the families of the earth would be blessed.

It’s important to understand how old Abraham was at the time of testing. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. We know that Isaac was weaned in chapter 21. That’s at least three more years before Abraham was tested. We also know that in chapter 23 Sarah died at the age of 127 when Isaac was 37 years old. And, we know that Isaac s a type of Jesus. Given that Sarah gave birth to Isaac, I think that makes Sarah a type of Israel in this story. In effect, Israel, as God’s wife, gave birth to Jesus. When did Israel (Sarah) die, or come to an end? Shortly after Jesus’ death when he was about 33 years old. So, I think Genesis 22 takes place when Isaac is about the same age as Jesus when he died. I believe that the point is that Isaac was not a small boy in Genesis. This would make Abraham about 130 years old. Their ages will be important later.

YOUR SON, YOUR ONLY SON ISAAC

In Genesis 22:3, God tells Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac.” Abram had a son, Ishmael. But, Abraham had the son, Isaac. Plus, Ishmael had been sent away. Isaac was Abraham’s only son. Similarly, in the Old Testament, the angels are called the sons of God. But, God has only one Son.

  • “glory as of the only Son into the world.” – John 1:14
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” – John 3:16
  • “that God sent his only Son into the world” – 1 John 4:9

WHOM YOU LOVE

God tells Abraham to take his only son, “whom you love.” God loves his son, Jesus.

  • “The Father loves the Son.” – John 3:35
  • “as the Father has loved me” – John 15:9
  • “So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” – John 17:23
  • “to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” – John 17:24
  • “I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them” – John 17:26

AND GO TO THE LAND OF MORIAH

Abraham is to take the son whom he loves “and go to the land of Moriah.” The only other mention of Moriah is in 2 Chronicles 3:1, which says, “Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The threshing floor is a symbol of judgment. It is the place where the husk was separated from the grain by beating and the place where the grain is crushed. Isaiah 53:5 says, “he [Jesus] was crushed for our iniquities.”

The root word of Moriah means to see, to understand, to spy, to reveal, look at, examine, or inspect. We could think of Moriah as the place where Christ was examined and inspected for his worthiness.

Another meaning of Moriah is “bitterness of the Lord.” At the time of the call in Genesis 22:3, Abraham and Isaac were in Beersheba. Beersheba means the well of underground water. But, Abraham and Isaac were journeying to the bitterness of the Lord, which speaks to the separation of the Father and the Son.

SO ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING

Having been told by God what to do, Abraham set to action right away. He took Isaac and headed out to Moriah early in the morning. When did Jesus’ testing begin? Early in the morning. In Luke 22, after the last supper and early in the morning, Jesus was praying with his disciples in the garden. We know it was early in the morning because the disciples kept falling asleep. In Luke 22:66, Jesus was arrested early in the morning, and when day came, the elders, chief priests, and scribes gathered together to hold a trial.

SADDLED HIS DONKEY…AND HE CUT THE WOOD FOR BURNT OFFERING

When the journey started, Abraham cut the wood for sacrifice and put it on the donkey for the three day journey. This is a picture of Jesus, who had someone carry the cross for him at one point.

  • “And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” – Luke 23:26
  • “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.” – Matthew 27:32
  • “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” – Mark 15:21

Consider that neither the donkey nor Simon had any choice in the matter. The donkey was saddled, and Simon was seized or compelled. Also, notice that Simon carried the cross behind Jesus, which is where a donkey would walk.

AND TOOK TWO OF HIS YOUNG MEN WITH HIM

Having saddled the donkey with the wood for the sacrifice, Abraham and Isaac set out for Moriah with two of Abraham’s you men. What is this a picture of?

  • “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.” – Luke 23:32
  • “Then two robbers were crucified with him.” – Matthew 27:38
  • “And with him the crucified two robbers.” – Mark 15:27

ON THE THIRD DAY ABRAHAM LIFTED UP HIS EYES AND SAW THE PLACE AFAR OFF

The journey from Beersheba to Moriah was three days. So, three days after setting out, Abraham sees the place that he was to sacrifice Isaac afar off. Last week, I mentioned that the third day is an important day in the Bible as an unusually high number of events take place on the third day. This is because on the third day Jesus is resurrected. But, how do we reconcile that Abraham saw the place of Isaac’s sacrifice on the third day, which represents resurrection, but Isaac has not been sacrificed yet? The day they set out on the journey and Abraham obeyed God was the day that Isaac was sacrificed in Abraham’s mind. Isaac died on the first day of the journey. This was the day Abraham and Isaac set out from Beersheba, which is the well of underground water. This is the well spring of life. When Abraham and Isaac left this place it spoke of their broken fellowship and the broken fellowship between the Father and the Son.

The third day speaks of resurrection. And, on the third day, Abraham sees the place afar off. Abraham sees the place that Isaac would be resurrected. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did received him back.”

But, Abraham saw much more than how far away in distance Isaac’s resurrection on the third day. The Bible says he “saw the place afar off.” I think this is not speaking of distance but of time. Listen to what Jesus says in John 8:37, 39-40, 56, 58, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you…If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who was told the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

THEN ABRAHAM SAID TO HIS YOUNG MEN, “STAY HERE WITH THE DONKEY”

Having seen the place of Isaac’s resurrection, Abraham tells his two young men to stay behind. He and Isaac would go off alone. Even though the thieves were always present on either side of Jesus during his crucifixion, I believe there was a moment when the Father and Jesus were “alone.” Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” I think the Father and Jesus were “alone” at this time because no one understood what Jesus was saying. They thought he was calling out to Elijah.

I AND THE BOY WILL OVER THERE TO WORSHIP AND COME TO YOU AGAIN

Abraham and Isaac went off by themselves to worship. We see this with the Father and Jesus too. In Luke 23:46, Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus is quoting Psalm 31:5, and it is even the title of the psalm. John 19:30, says, “He [Jesus] said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus’ spirit went back to the Father. They were worshiping together.

But, this was also the moment that Abraham clearly expressed his belief in the gospel – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This was the moment that Abraham showed that he clearly knew Isaac would be resurrected since he said they would both come back to the servants. Perhaps Abraham even knew that he was acting out an exact prophecy of Jesus’ death.

AND ABRAHAM TOOK THE WOOD OF THE BURNT OFFERING AND LAID IT ON ISAAC HIS SON

At this time, Abraham is likely 130 years old and Isaac is probably in his early 30s. Abraham was not sacrificing a small boy that he could force the wood upon. Abraham was sacrificing a grown man. And, given the age difference, a man that he could not force to do anything. Therefore, Isaac willingly let Abraham put the wood on him. He did not fight or resist. This is a perfect picture of the Father and Jesus. The Father did not force Jesus to the cross. Rather, Jesus willingly went to it. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR HIMSELF THE LAMB

The Hebrew word “for” has a range of meanings, including of, by, that, and from. Try reading verse 8 with each of those words substituted for the quite common translation “for.” I think when we understand this entire chapter with Abraham and Isaac as a picture of the Father and Jesus going to the cross we see that what Abraham is saying is that the lamb that God will provide is himself. So, I think the ISV translation gets it right, “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” Jesus, as God, is not just any lamb, but the lamb for the burnt offering.

ABRAHAM…BOUND ISAAC HIS SON AND LAID HIM ON THE ALTAR, ON TOP OF THE WOOD

Abraham assured Isaac that God would provide himself the lamb. Did Abraham just preach the gospel to Isaac, if he hadn’t already? Because the lamb that God would provide is nowhere to be found yet.

So, Abraham and Isaac reach the place God showed Abraham. Abraham built an altar and laid the wood on top of Isaac. Isaac was bound, but he willingly let it happen, just like Jesus let himself be bound.

  • “The chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and delivered him to Pilate.” – Mark 15:1
  • “And they bound him.” – Matthew 27:2
  • “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” – John 19:11

The priest, scribes, elders, and Pilate had no authority to bind Jesus. The authority came from the Father, and Jesus willingly let it happen.

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD CALLED TO HIM FROM HEAVEN

Throughout the entire chapter, it was God telling Abraham what to do. But, now the angel of the Lord, Jesus, calls out from heaven. Notice how the angel of the Lord seems to be equated with God.

The angel of the Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” We would have expected God the Father to say this to Abraham. But, instead it’s the angel of the Lord, Jesus, that says because Abraham has not withheld his only son Abraham has passed the test. The angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes the gospel and, indeed, believes in him. This is important because it’s when we believe in Jesus that he gives us life.

  • “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16
  • “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” – John 3:36
  • “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” – John 5:24
  • “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” – John 6:40
  • “whoever has the son has life” – 1 John 5:12

BEHOLD, BEHIND HIM WAS A RAM, CAUGHT IN THE THICKET BY HIS HORNS

Now that the angel of the Lord knows that Abraham believes, Abraham looks behind him and sees a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. God provided not just a lamb, but a ram. Is that because Jesus was fully grown, a man, and not a small boy? I think so.

The ram was caught by his horns. Horns are a symbol of power throughout the Bible. Horns are on the head of the animal. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” And, 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that Jesus is the power of God. John 19:2 says, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” The ram was caught by his horns in a thicket, or thorn bush. And, Jesus, the power of God, had a crown thorns put on his head.

Thorns were produced by the earth due to Adam’s sin. And, Christ bore the crown of thorns, our sins, on the cross. It says in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

It was while Jesus had the crown of thorns on his head on the cross that the full power of God was revealed. According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Why did the ram have to be caught by its horns? If the ram had been caught anywhere else, then its flesh would have been torn. But, 1 Peter 1:19 says that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

“THE LORD WILL PROVIDE” AND “ON THE MOUNT OF THE LORD IT SHALL BE PROVIDED”

Now that the ram has been provided, Abraham calls the name of the place of the resurrection (remember we are three days from Beersheba) “the Lord will provide.” And, according to Moses, the place is still called “on the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

However, “provide” and “provided” are not the correct translations. According to the multiple Hebrew dictionaries I looked at, that is not what the Hebrew word jireh means. Therefore, I believe we have been mistranslating Jehovah Jireh. Jireh means to see; to understand, to spy, to reveal, to look at, to examine, to inspect, to show. Therefore, verse 14 should say, “So Abraham called the name of that place ‘The Lord will be seen’, as it is to this day, ‘On the mount the Lord shall be seen.’” There are actually a couple of Bible translations that translate the verse this way. This is more appropriate because Abraham is acting out prophecy and has already seen the place afar off in time. He’s looking ahead and seeing the Lord Jesus in his resurrection. Remember what Jesus says in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

BY MYSELF I HAVE SWORN, DECLARES THE LORD

After Abraham declares the Lord will be seen in his resurrection in this place, the angel of the Lord calls from heaven a second time. Just like God, the angel of the Lord, who calls himself Lord, has the power to swear and take action. In John 5:21, Jesus says, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

What does the angel of the Lord declare? He reiterates the original promise to Abraham. “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.”

In this statement by the angel of the Lord, every use of the word offspring is singular. Remember, that in Galatians 3:16 Paul points out that this means it is referring to Jesus. So, the angel of the Lord, says that he will multiply Abraham’s single offspring, or seed, who is Jesus. There are several verses in the New Testament that fulfill this entire statement from the angel of the Lord.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

  • “Therefore from one man, and in him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” – Hebrews 11:12
  • “So that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” – Galatians 3:14
  • “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!’” – Revelation 7:9-10

ABRAHAM LIVED AT BEERSHEBA

After the angel of the Lord reconfirmed the promise to Abraham, Abraham and his young men went together to Beersheba. They go back to the well of underground water, which is the place of living water, or eternal life. But, it’s interesting that Isaac is not mentioned as going back to Beersheba. Is this because he has ascended to the Father?

So, Genesis 22 is an amazingly detailed prophetic passage of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. While the information provided in commentaries may be helpful, it doesn’t make my heart burn within me. But, when I see Jesus in almost every word, then I feel like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus translated where he was in all the scriptures.

Abraham and Lot: The Spiritual Man and the Carnal Man

Today’s Reading: Genesis 18-20

In yesterday’s reading, scripture begins to show a difference between Abram and Lot. When there was strife between their herdsmen, Abram said, “Separate yourself from me.” Abram gave Lot the first choice of the land to dwell, and Abram would take whatever Lot didn’t choose. Abram was seeking the good of the other, Lot, not his own good. This is evidence of the spiritual man in Abram.

When Abram said this, “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar.” Notice that it is Lot who lifted up his eyes. And, he saw a land that looked to him, like the land of the Egypt, which is a type of the world. So, Lot, lifting up his own eyes, a sign of pride, sets his heart on the things of world. This is evidence of the carnal man in Lot.

There were other signs of Abram’s growing in the spirit, including circumcision and the changing of his name. But, in today’s reading, Genesis 18:1 says, “And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” Abraham was a man who lived in a tent. He was a sojourner, a stranger, in the earth, “for he was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose designed and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) It was here, outside his tent, that the Lord, along with two angels, “appeared” to him. I believe when we see the Lord “appearing” in the Old Testament it is a reference to Jesus before he took on flesh and became a man.

So, Abraham was meeting with Jesus. He served him, and he did it quickly. Notice “quickly” is repeated several times in regards to how Abraham, his wife, and his servants served the Lord. Then Abraham stood there while the Lord and the two angels ate. All of these are marks of Abraham as the spiritual man.

The Lord tells the two angels that he has chosen Abraham, therefore he is not going to hide from Abraham his will. The two angels depart to go to Sodom, leaving Abraham with the Lord. Then Abraham and the Lord have a one-on-one conversation. Again, these are all marks of Abraham as the spiritual man.

However, in chapter 19, Lot is described much differently. Genesis 19:1 says, “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” It was the two angels, not the Lord, that came to Lot. Lot could not here from the Lord directly. Instead of dwelling in a tent as a sojourner, Lot was dwelling in the gate of the city, Sodom, in a land that reminded him of Egypt. The gate of the city was the place where the city was ruled. Lot wasn’t just living in the city, but he was helping to govern it. Instead of sojourning and looking for God’s city, Lot was living in the world and participating in all the culture and activities to rule that city. These are all marks of Lot as the carnal man.

While Lot served the two men a feast and unleavened bread. Genesis 19:3 says, “And they ate.” Scripture clearly says that Abraham stood by the Lord and the two angels as they ate. But, the sense with Lot seems to be that he prepared a feast and ate with the two angels. Also, instead of Lot’s service being done quickly for the two angels, Lot “pressed them strongly.” I think the picture we see with Lot’s entire interaction with the two angels is a lack of submission, whereas Abraham was pictured as fully submitting to the Lord. This is a mark of Lot as the carnal man.

These two angels had to drag Lot out of the city. After the two angels dragged Lot and his family out of the city, they told Lot to escape to the hills so that his life would be safe. But, Lot rejected their instructions and asked to go to another city. Lot said this city was smaller, implying that even though it’s still a city, still in the world, it won’t be as wicked as the one the two angels dragged him out of. Despite the angels dragging him out, Lot was still longing for the world. This is a mark of Lot as the carnal man.

So, in chapters 18 and 19, we see Abraham as a picture of the spiritual man and Lot as the carnal man. For me, the most significant difference is that Jesus, the Lord, appeared to Abraham, the spiritual man, directly but only messengers, angels, were sent to Lot, the carnal man.

This brings to my mind Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He tells them that you speak to spiritual men one and carnal men, men of the flesh, another way. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 says, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”

The Lord could give Abraham solid food because he was a spiritual man. Lot could only be fed with milk because he was still living after the flesh, seeking the things of the Lord.

Let us be a spiritual people so that we can hear from Jesus directly.