A Greater than Jacob

The life of Jacob reads like a history of the nation of Israel. He spans more of Genesis than any other individual. Despite our perception of Jacob’s character, God appeared to Jacob just as often as He appeared to Abraham! Though he displayed certain unpleasant natural traits, yet he was the subject of God’s sovereign electing grace as Paul reminds us, Rom. 9. 11. The psalmist reports, ‘The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself’, Ps. 135. 4. In the New Testament, Stephen speaks of Jacob in Acts chapter 7, his faith is mentioned by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 11, and Paul refers to him in his dispensational section of Romans. Elsewhere, he is usually bracketed with the patriarchs, e.g., ‘the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob’.

John speaks of Jacob’s ladder, 1. 51, and Jacob’s well, 4. 6. We might contrast the two. (See Jacob’s Ladder and Jacob’s Well Table).

The Pharisees raised the query as to Abraham and Christ, now the woman of Samaria asks querulously, ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob which gave us the well?’ The Samaritans claimed Jacob as their father and once built a temple on Mount Gerizim, their holy mount; Jacob’s well was treasured by them. Also, Joseph’s bones were buried there, hence, the name Sychar, ‘town of the sepulchre’. Sychar is probably the village of Askar where the disciples might have gone for food. A report of the well from 1869 describes it as being 7.5 feet in diameter, 105 feet deep and walled for the first 10 feet below which it was cut through rock. It held 15 feet of water.

Wells figure quite prominently in the Old Testament:

  • Beerlahairoi was where the angel of Jehovah found Hagar after her expulsion from Abraham’s household. The pregnant woman was promised great seed from her baby boy Ishmael, Gen. 16.14.
  • Eliezer of Damascus, Abraham’s servant, was commissioned to find a wife for Isaac. ‘I being in the way, the Lord led me’, Gen. 24. 27. He found Rebekah at the well.
  • Moses met his wife-to-be at a well in Midian, after fleeing from Egypt, namely, Zipporah, Exod. 2. 15.
  • David’s whispered wish was overheard by three of his mighty men … a cup of water from the well of Bethlehem. They broke through the ranks of the Philistine forces to oblige their leader.

Here, the woman of Samaria meets with Jesus and her spiritual thirst is slaked. ‘With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation’, Isa. 12. 3, 4. ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob which gave us the well?’ Yes, a thousand times, yes! (See Jacob’s Well and Jesus’ Well Table).

Jacob is better known for his greed than for his giving, i.e. the birthright of Esau and the blessing of Isaac. Yet, he gives a parcel of ground for Joseph’s burial and a well for posterity. Contrast that with the words of the Lord, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God’, John 4. 10. John did. He records eight gifts in his gospel as opposed to Jacob’s two:

(i) ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’, John 4. 14.
(ii) ‘The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep’, John 10. 11.
(iii) ‘For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you’, John 13. 15.
(iv) ‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter’. ‘The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost whom my Father will send in my name’, John 14. 16, 26.
(v) ‘My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you’, John 14. 27.
(vi) ‘For I have given unto them the words (rhema) which thou gavest me’, John 17. 8.
(vii) ‘I have given them thy word (logos)’, John 17. 14.
(viii) ‘And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them’, John 17. 22.

What a munificent God we have! Truly, a greater than Jacob! To summarize, Paul says, ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things’, Rom. 8. 32. With David we can rejoice and praise the Lord, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits’, Ps. 103. 2.

‘The gift of God’. The Greek dorean used here is rare in the gospel records. It is a grace gift, a gratuity, given without cause. John uses it again, ‘And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely’, Rev. 22. 17.

Jacob was 77 years in Beersheba, ‘tied to his mother’s apron strings’. He was unconverted for nearly half of his life. This may help us to understand his grasping, guileful ways in taking the birthright from his brother and the blessing of his father. It took Esau’s threat on Jacob’s life to cause Jacob to leave home for Padan-Aram.

That first night at Bethel, Jacob experienced God’s grace and became a believer. For the next 20 years he learned that Uncle Laban was as big a twister as he, himself. He learned something of the guidance of God as he leaves Laban and makes his way to Hebron. At Hebron he lost Rachel, his father and, ostensibly, Joseph, too. These experiences teach him lessons concerning God’s government. His attitude to life is summed up in his own words, ‘All these things are against me’. However, the pinnacle of this period of his life was Peniel; the place where Jacob became Israel, a prince with God.

Finally, he spends 17 years in Egypt. Here we see a more mature believer and glimpses of his godliness are apparent. He is singled out for his faith, in blessing his sons and prophesying regarding his family. He is the only hero of faith singled out for his worship in the great gallery of faith. Clearly, Jacob’s latter end was better than his beginning. ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob?’ Consider the following comparisons and contrasts. (See Jacob and Jesus Table).

The supplanter is eclipsed in every respect by the Saviour of the world. Christ outshines, outranks and outmatches the most respected figures of biblical history, even the man of whom it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved’.

A man. A woman.
A Jew. A Samaritan.
A moral person. An immoral person.
Nathaniel … ‘gift of God’. The gift of God … living water.
Millennial blessing. Eternal blessing.
Jesus, the Son of Man. Jesus, the Saviour of the World.
Intercommunication between heaven/earth. Inner quenching of spiritual thirst.
Jacob, the guileful … ‘an Israelite' Jacob, the giver … the burial plot for Joseph.
indeed in whom there is no guile, lit. ‘Jacob’. and the well for his descendants.
A natural substance, water. A spiritual substance, the water of life.
Temporal satisfaction … constant coming. Eternal satisfaction … only drink once.
An external source … the earth. Eternal satisfaction … only drink once.
A local supply – Jacob, his family and livestock. A universal supply – available to all.
Obtained by bucket. Obtained by believing.
Provided by Jacob, the supplanter. Provided by Jesus, the Saviour.
Jacob bored through the rock to release water. Jesus became the ‘smitten Rock’ to release the water of life.
Jacob was guileful: a deceiver, for example, of his father. Jesus was guileless, ‘neither was guile found in his mouth’, 1 Peter 2. 22.
Jacob was grasping, i.e., the birthright and the blessing. Jesus was gracious: ‘thought it not robbery (a thing to be grasped after) to be equal with God’, Phil. 2. 6.
Jacob was hated by his brother, Gen. 27. 41. Jesus was rejected by His brethren, John 1. 11.
Jacob was hated with good cause, i.e., because of his guile and deceitfulness. Jesus was hated ‘without a cause’, John 15. 25.
Jacob was threatened with death by his brother, Gen. 27. 41. Jesus was sentenced to death by His brethren, John 19. 7.
Jacob was met by angels at Mahanain when about to face Esau, Gen. 32. 2. Jesus was ministered to by an angel at Gethsemane when about to face Calvary, Luke 22. 43.
Jacob dreamt of a ladder. Jesus is that ladder.
Jacob gave his descendants a well and its water. Jesus offers the ‘water of life’ to the ‘whosoever’, Rev. 22. 17.
Jacob’s faith is only highlighted at the close of his life, Heb. 11. 21. Jesus’ faith was in evidence from his mother’s womb, Ps. 22. 9, 10.
Jacob’s prophecy was tribal, at best, national, Gen. 49. Jesus’ prophecy was global, universal, Matt. 24, 25.
Jacob’s blessing was limited to his sons. Jesus’ blessing incorporates both Jew and Gentile, Rom. 10. 12.
Jacob’s worshipping on his staff is noted in Hebrews 11. Jesus did not render worship but received it, for He is God.

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