Jacob, Jacob
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
preached in PCC Worship Services, Apr 2013 to Feb 2014
Part 2 of 3

We are continuing in our study of Genesis 46:1-7 as part of our series on the repetition of names in the Bible. In the previous article, we considered Jacob’s fears. In this article, we will look at Jacob’s God.

Jacob’s God
(vv. 2-4)

Verse 2 says, “And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.”

The last time that God spoke to Jacob was at least twenty years ago when he was at Bethel. We read of that in Genesis 35. Our text in Genesis 46 records the final time that God would speak to Jacob in his life time. The first thing we note is God’s repetition of his name. “Jacob, Jacob.” This is only the second time in the Bible that God repeats someone’s name. The first occurrence of such a name repetition was on Mount Moriah, at that most critical moment just as Abraham was about to plunge his knife into Isaac’s flesh to kill him.

Now, at a very significant and crucial juncture of Jacob’s life, the LORD repeats Jacob’s name when calling out to him. Name repetitions often signify deep affection and love on the part of the one calling for the one who is called. God has a deep love for Jacob, and He comes to him in his moment of deep anxiety to comfort and assure him of His love and presence.

But isn’t it interesting that the LORD calls him by his old name rather than the new name which He Himself gave to him? In Genesis 32:28, the God-man said to Jacob at Peniel, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel…” And again at Bethel, in Genesis 35:10, God said, “Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.”

But here at Beersheba, God says, “Jacob, Jacob” not “Israel, Israel.” Why? Perhaps it is because his fears and anxieties and doubts resemble more his old self than his new. Remember that Jacob was still in the process of sanctification. He was converted and justified but still a sinner and imperfect.

“Jacob, Jacob,” said God in the night vision. “Here am I,” he replied. This is exactly the same reply that Abraham gave when God repeated his name on Moriah. And that is the same reply that Moses would later give to God’s repetition of his name at the burning bush when He called him to deliver Israel from Egypt.

So just before Israel goes into Egypt, we find a repetition of someone’s name followed by a “Here am I.” Similarly, just before Israel goes out of Egypt, we find another repetition of a person’s name followed by a “Here am I.”

Well, the Lord goes on to identify Himself to Jacob in verse 3, “I am God, the God of thy father…” He says two things about Himself in relation to Jacob.

First, He is God. The Hebrew word for God is El, which means the Mighty God. But in Hebrew, the definite article is also present so literally, it reads, “I am THE God” or “I am the true God, the Mighty One, the Strong One, the One who especially deserves the name ‘God.’” God’s purpose for highlighting His might and strength is no doubt to encourage Jacob that He is able to do all that He has promised and will promise him.

Then besides saying, “I am THE God,” He goes on to say, “the God of thy father…” He is not just the God of all things and all men in general, but He is specifically the God of Jacob’s father, Isaac. This speaks of God’s faithfulness to the covenant. Back in Genesis 26 when Isaac first arrived at Beersheba, the LORD appeared to him that very night and said, “I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake.”

He now says very similar words to Isaac’s son, “I am the God of thy father…” The covenant that God at first revealed to Abraham carries on with Isaac and then with Jacob and so on from generation to generation.   The covenant of God will never fail because the God of the covenant is faithful and unchanging. And just as He had been faithful to Abraham and Isaac, so He will continue to deal faithfully with Jacob.

Next, we move on to consider what this mighty and faithful God promised Jacob in verses 3 and 4, “fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.”

Now in Genesis 26, God told Isaac not to go down into Egypt but to sojourn in Canaan, whereas here in Genesis 46, He tells Jacob not to be afraid to go down into Egypt. Here we are reminded that God’s faithfulness to His people does not mean that He deals with each of them in exactly the same way. God’s will for Isaac was for him to remain in Canaan all his life whereas God’s will for Jacob was for him to spend 20 years in Haran and then another 17 years in Egypt.

We should not expect God’s people to fit into the same mould or to have the same lot in life in terms of what we are called to do or even where we are called to live. But the one thing that we can expect to be the same in the lives of all of God’s people is the presence of God. Jacob had no need to fear going down to Egypt.

Yes, he was an old man by this time; yes, he may have had bad memories about leaving home; and yes, he may have had many misgivings about Egypt and what it represented, but rising above all these fears is the promise of God to Jacob, “fear not… I will go down with thee into Egypt.”

Or to change the analogy, if you can think of a weighing balance: on the one side are all of Jacob’s fears and anxieties and concerns about going into Egypt. They weigh like a tonne upon his shoulders. But on the other side of the balance is found just one simple statement, “I will go down with thee into Egypt.” You place these two items on the balance and let it go and what happens is that the heavy burden of Jacob’s fears immediately rises up like a feather on the scale, while the weighty promise of God’s presence sinks down as a solid anchor of the soul. Indeed, God’s “fear not” and God’s promise of His presence outweighs all our fears and anxieties in life.

Jacob could go into Egypt with perfect peace of mind and comfort of heart because he had the assurance that God – the Mighty and Faithful One – will be with him. That makes all the difference in life, isn’t it? Was Egypt still the dangerous and ungodly and uncertain and even frightening place that it was? Yes, it was! But Jacob would not be facing Egypt and all that it represented alone.

The same is true for us. If God goes not with us in our lives, we should fear to take even a single step forward. But if God is with us, then we need not fear to walk through even the valley of the shadow of death.

Then besides promising to go with Jacob into Egypt, the LORD promised to make of him a great nation. This is really a reiteration or repeat of His earlier promise to all the three patriarchs. To Abraham, God said in Genesis 12:2, “And I will make of thee a great nation.” To Isaac, God said in Genesis 26:4, “I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;” And to Jacob, God said in Genesis 35:11, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;”

This promise to Jacob that he would become a great nation was partially fulfilled in Egypt. From a mere 70 of them, Jacob’s family grew to a several million by the time of the exodus from Egypt. But that was by no means the end of the promise. The children of Jacob continued to multiply and grow until the time of Christ, the seed of Jacob, and then beyond that into the New Covenant era. The chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the peculiar people, the holy nation continues to grow, and it will continue to grow until it reaches a multitude so great that no man can number.

Jacob might have feared that his family may become extinct after some time in Egypt. God assured him that far from extinction, He would make of him a great nation. Jacob himself would not live to see that but that didn’t matter. The promise of God was certain and would never fail.

The same is true for us today. We may feel that we are but a tiny minority in this hostile world that is ready to swallow us up in an instant. But the promise of God to grow His people and the promise of Christ to build His church ought to encourage us. Yes, we, like Jacob, may not live to see the day when Messiah’s kingdom will extend from sea to sea unto the ends of the earth, and all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him, but that day will surely come, just as He has promised. And let it encourage our hearts that the little work which we are involved in in our church and in our lives is really part of God’s larger work, and that someday, we will be part of that great company of saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.   

Finally, in verse 4, God assures Jacob that He would surely bring him up again; and that Joseph would put his hand upon his eyes. This last part of verse 4 means that his beloved son Joseph would be present at his death bed and will perform the final loving act of making sure his eyelids were closed and his body buried.

Years ago when he heard from his sons that Joseph had died, Jacob mourned the death of his favourite son for many days and refused to be comforted. But now his sons tell him that Joseph was alive. Was he really alive? Did they lie to him again? If Jacob had any doubts in his mind about the truthfulness of their report, these doubts were totally erased by the Word of the Lord. Joseph was alive and he would live to see and to mourn the passing of his father.

The promise, “I will also surely bring thee up again” has reference not only to Jacob’s body being transported from Egypt to Canaan and then buried in the Promised Land, but it also refers to the exodus or the departure of the whole nation out of Egypt. When Jacob left Canaan for Haran back in chapter 28, the LORD promised to bring him back someday. That promised was indeed fulfilled. Jacob returned after 20 years.

Now, just before Jacob leaves Canaan for Egypt, the Lord issues a similar promise. The difference is that this time, Jacob would not be alive when the time comes for both he and his descendants to return to the land. But that didn’t matter. God is faithful and He will surely perform His word. He did it once. He will do it again.

And so Jacob would later tell Joseph shortly before he died, “Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers” (Gen 48:21).

Next time, we will consider the third part of the text, namely, Jacob’s obedience in verses 5-7.

Linus Chua