Israel’s Land Promise
Introduction: If you’ve read the book of Genesis just once, you know that Jacob has already been named Israel. In fact, what happens in today’s seven verses is more often than not claimed by scholars to simply be a legendary repetition of the same account.
Unless you know that God has a purpose for every word in His Word, there often seems to be no sense in why things get repeated and patterns keep showing up in the Bible. And so scholars make up things like, “Oh that was inserted many years later by a scribe.”
Or you may hear, “This is the same story, just being told differently and they don’t know which one actually happened, so they kept both in the Bible.”
Too often, incompetence, carelessness, or willful manipulation of the text is used to explain away why things are the way they are. Is that it? Is this a book of error and haphazard compilation, or is it the carefully recorded work of a methodical and infinitely wise Creator? I would lean heavily on the latter.
In chapter 32, Jacob was told his name would no longer be Jacob but Israel and yet the Bible never records him actually being called Israel until many years later. Here in Chapter 35, it still hasn’t happened. And yet, in today’s passage, he is named Israel again.
Is there a reason for these things or are they really just legendary repetitions which partially match what happened? Well, let’s see what God has for us today as we peer deeply into this story.
Text Verse: Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Ezekiel 37:25
In the church, we read verses like this one and try to find a reason why forever means something other than forever, or why what is promised to one group of people actually belongs to another group of people. When this happens, it’s usually because we already believe something different than what the verse actually says.
The promise spoken to Ezekiel by the Lord is one which was long before spoken to Jacob. The land of Canaan belongs to God and God has granted it to one group of people. If we can simply accept that at face value, then we will more readily be able to understand the other things that God is doing in history as well.
Let’s do our best to accept that God’s promises stand and that He didn’t err in returning a nation of disobedient people back to the land He long ago kicked them out of. Instead, He has a reason for them being there. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. God Appears to Jacob
9 Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him.
There’s an amazing set of parallels between the life of Jacob and the life of Abraham. Many of them are actually highlighted in these verses in an interesting way. Jacob has returned from being out of the land of Canaan and he now returns to Bethel where he had his vision before he left.
In that vision the Lord promised him that, “the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.” Likewise, Abraham entered Canaan and was given a promise in the same area, just east of Bethel. It said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”
After receiving the promise, Abraham left Canaan for Egypt and Jacob left Canaan for Padan Aram. After returning from Egypt Abraham eventually journeyed to the same spot between Bethel and Ai. Jacob returned from Padan Aram and eventually has journeyed back to Bethel as well.
Here in this verse, it says that God appeared to Jacob “again” when he came from Padan Aram. “Again” is referring back to when He appeared to him before He left almost 30 years earlier. This is why Padan Aram is mentioned. He appeared to him there at Bethel before He left, and now He appears again after his return.
The altar was built and the name El Bethel was given in fulfillment of the promise made so long ago. After the building of the altar, God now appears to him. Unlike last time, which was in a vision at night, this time He appears in visible form. The last time, before he left, Jacob said these words –
“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”
Now that the promise is fulfilled, the Lord is his God. This is why the term “God” is used ten times in this chapter, but the term “Lord” never is, even though it was used four times in his vision 30 years earlier.
The Lord, Jehovah, who stood above the ladder proved Himself faithful to Jacob, and therefore the Lord is now his God. I hope you’re understanding what I’m trying to say.
This is the same thing as calling on Jesus as Lord, and why the resurrection is tied into our call. Remember in Romans 10:9 it says, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Jesus showed Himself faithful and the resurrection is proof of this. Therefore He is our God – we acknowledge that in our confession. In the same way, the Lord Jehovah above the ladder proved Himself faithful to Jacob. Now He is Jacob’s God. Be sure, there is only one God, but who is that God?
Is it krishna, allah, or buddha? Can they prove they are God? No! But Jehovah can and He did. Likewise, Jesus did and He is God. When we know it, then we need to acknowledge it. Jacob knew and he acknowledged.
This is why it’s so important to understand what was mentioned about the use of the plural term “gods” from last week in Genesis 35:7. All gods are to be removed from our lives, leaving only the true God as our God.
One final thing from this verse is that it says that God “blessed Jacob.” The Lord has been faithful to him, he has called on him as God, and so God blesses him. Far too often, people expect the blessing without the commitment. This isn’t how things work. God’s blessing is bestowed upon the committed soul. LIFE APPLICATION
10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.”
To tie all of the things which have occurred together, we come to this verse. It starts with, “And God said to him.” This is God speaking, not a god, but Jacob’s God, the true God. And God says to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.”
The Lord above the ladder is the same One who wrestled with him at night. He knows this because He is giving him the same name as he was given that night. But what was it that he prayed just before the wrestling match?
He said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’” He was Abraham’s God, He was Isaac’s God, and now He is Jacob’s God. He is El Elohe Israel – God, the God of Israel. The Lord is God.
This changing of the name of Jacob to Israel is done by Jacob’s God, but when Abraham’s name was changed it says it was done by the Lord, Jehovah. In Genesis 17:5, it says, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”
Again and again, the connection is being made between Jehovah and God. They are one in the same. Bestowing of a name indicates the ownership. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus promises His faithful a new name, thus implying He is their Master and their God.
10 (con’t) So He called his name Israel.
What may seem even more curious than anything else we’ve come across, is that God just changed Jacob’s name to Israel, saying, “…your name shall not be called Jacob anymore” and yet he will be called Jacob three more times in this chapter before he is called Israel for the very first time in the Bible.
After that, which is verse 21, he will be called Jacob three more times before the chapter ends. And this chapter is 6 to 10 years after the wrestling match where he was told the exact same thing, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.”
As was explained then, for the rest of the Bible both names – Jacob and Israel – are used commonly and interchangeably, sometimes even in the same sentence. Jacob is the flesh and blood man who still walks in a fallen world. Israel is the hope and promise of the life in Messiah.
Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 15. He tells us there that the natural, or earthly, comes first and then the spiritual. This is true with Adam coming before Jesus and it is true in each believer. We are born carnally, in bodies of flesh, and then we are born again spiritually.
This explains the reason why there are two stories which both claim to change Jacob’s name to Israel, and it is the reason for both stories being so similar. They are similar and yet they are different. They contrast and yet they confirm.
Just as happens time and time again in the Bible, when two things are noted, they are done to show the contrast and yet the confirmation. There are two testaments in the Bible, they contrast – Old and New, the Law and Grace. And yet they confirm the Bible.
In one day there is darkness and there is light. They contrast and yet they confirm a day’s duration. Jesus is Man, but Jesus is God. The two contrast, and yet they confirm His incarnation. There is heaven and there is earth. They contrast and yet they confirm the universal domain – the spiritual and the material.
In order for you to hopefully get this, I did a comparison of the two accounts where Jacob’s name is changed. Here are the results and they will show you exactly what I’m talking about. I was thoroughly surprised when I lined the two up. You’re the first people to hear these comparisons –
God’s camp – Mahanaim (earthly)
God’s house – Bethel (heavenly)
Jacob petitions the Lord in prayer (asking from God)
Jacob honors the Lord building an altar (offering to God)
O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac (earthly)
El Bethel – God of the House of God (divine)
Fear of man (his brother Esau) was in Jacob
Fear of God was on people around Jacob
Jacob is outside Canaan
Jacob is inside Canaan
Jacob is alone
Jacob is with family
Jacob wrestles with Man
Jacob fellowships with God
Jacob’s body is weakened in the hollow of the thigh (groin area weakness)
Told that nations and kings will issue from his body (groin area strength)
The Man he wrestles with doesn’t give Jacob His name
God gives Jacob His name – El Shaddai
The Man blesses Jacob
God blesses Jacob
The Man names Jacob Israel
God names Jacob Israel
The name and blessing of Israel applies to Jacob the man
The name and blessing of Israel applies to Jacob the people
Jacob limped in weakness
Jacob set up pillar in strength
He names location Peniel – Face of God
He names location Bethel – House of God
We are in this physical life, struggling with God and seeking His face. At the same time, we are fellowshipping with God and are living stones in His house. Israel here isn’t just a picture of the people of the nation, he is a picture of the spiritual life of one who walks in the world while being seated in heaven as the Bible describes us.
11 Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty.
Here we have another connection tying all the visions together. God says to him, “I am God Almighty” – ani El Shaddai. This is the exact same words that the Lord spoke to Abraham when his name was changed and the promise of the covenant was repeated, ani El Shaddai.
God is the Lord; the Lord is El Shaddai – the Almighty; and the Almighty is God. The terms are being repeated and used interchangeably for our benefit, learning, and belief. This is exactly what the New Testament does with Jesus, God, the Spirit, and etc.
Again and again. All are tied together and are used interchangeably to keep us from erring, and yet we err. Thus we deny Jesus His glory and we condemn ourselves for not paying attention.
11(con’t) Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body.
The Almighty God, the Lord, now repeats the promises made to Abraham eons ago. In Genesis 17, He said this to him –
And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly … I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. (2,6)
Jacob will refer to this verse when adopting as his own his two grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, before he dies in Genesis 48 –
“Then Jacob said to Joseph: “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.’” (3, 4)
Israel’s blessing is the same blessing passed down from Abraham to Isaac, but it is a blessing which then goes to all of the sons of Israel. Instead of the son of the covenant, it becomes the sons of the covenant.
II. The Land Promise
12 The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”
This verse is of singular importance in understanding the role of Israel in the history of redemption. When Paul speaks of Israel, he is speaking of the people who physically descend from Israel. He never calls Israel the church and he never calls the church Israel.
There are those in Israel who are in the church and there are those of the church who are the Israel of God, but Israel and the church are distinct entities. If the promise of land which was made to Abraham was never mentioned again, then the church could lay claim to the land promise, because we in the church are called Abraham’s descendants by faith.
But the land promise was repeated later to Isaac and then to Jacob. Because this is so, the land promise is a promise to the physical descendants of Israel only. When they are obedient to the covenant, the land is theirs and they may use it.
When they are disobedient, the land is theirs and they may not use it. Either way, the land is God’s and he has given it to them. And the duration of the gift is forever. El Shaddai said so to Abraham –
“Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:8
From Abraham, the promise was given to Isaac in Genesis 26 –
“Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (3-5)
From Isaac it was passed down to Jacob in his blessing upon him –
“May God Almighty bless you,
And make you fruitful and multiply you,
That you may be an assembly of peoples;
4 And give you the blessing of Abraham,
To you and your descendants with you,
That you may inherit the land
In which you are a stranger,
Which God gave to Abraham.” Genesis 28:3, 4
Now here in Genesis 35, God confirmed Isaac’s blessing with His own, restating it to Jacob – the land I give to you and your descendants.
III. The House of God
13 Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.
We’ve seen parallel after parallel between God’s words to Abraham and His words to Jacob. Now that He has finished speaking to Jacob, it says “God went up from him.” This is the same thing that happened to Abraham in Genesis 17:22. It says, “…and God went up from Abraham.”
In both instances God appeared visibly and left visibly. As God is Spirit, this must have been a physical manifestation of the Lord. It is the eternal Christ who has appeared time and time again in the pages of Scripture – making promises and returning upon the fulfillment of them. He is the covenant-keeping Lord – visible, tangible, wonderful. He is Jesus.
If nothing else shows us that Jesus is returning to Israel in the future, this concept of keeping promises will certainly do. In Matthew 23 we read this –
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
The fact that He said this demonstrates that He is really returning to them. He is the one who makes, and then fulfills, His promises, even to those who have rejected Him for so very long.
The life of Jacob, as we’ve seen so many times in the past sermons, has been one picturing Jesus and His work. However, the life of Jacob is also one which is instrumental to God’s work in and through the line of the Messiah.
Select portions of Jacob’s life have been used to picture the Lord in what is yet Jacob’s future. Likewise, select portions of his life have also been used to picture the Lord’s work in Jacob’s present. In both ways, they reveal the hand of the Lord as He directs the plan of redemption in human history.
This is what makes stories like this so astonishing. They are real stories of real people leading to the Messiah, filled with moral lessons, interesting patterns, and verifiable truths. And yet the same stories are pictures of the Messiah which provide theological lessons, more patterns, and more verifiable truths.
If you were in control of all things and possessed infinite knowledge, the way you could prove it would be to tell about the things you have done, and at the same time tell the things you were going to do – both in the same story. And when the stories span thousands and thousands of years, you would then add in another level of validation.
This word has been studied by wise men, scholars, scientists, mathematicians, historians, philosophers, and theologians for eons and yet new insights are peeled out of its many levels daily. It is an inexhaustible resource of the wisdom of God and a demonstration of His love for us.
14 So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it.
With the exception of adding a drink offering, this repeats what he did after his vision in the past. There it said, “Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.” Genesis 28:18
Is this the same stone he set up 30 years earlier? Some scholars say “Yes” and state it in the past tense, “Jacob had set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him…”
This is possible and would make sense. Either way though, the pillar is erected. Before he left on his way to Mesopotamia, he poured oil on it and made his promise –
“If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” Genesis 28
Now, he pours a drink offering and oil on it again. The first time was a promise, this time it is an acknowledgement. And so, for the first time in the Bible, a drink offering is made. A drink offering accompanies a sacrifice which is something he would have made on the altar mentioned in verse 7 during last week’s sermon.
The pouring out of a drink offering pictures the pouring out of Jesus’ life on the cross. This is noted several times, such as in the 22nd Psalm which is specifically a psalm about the cross –
I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me. Psalm 22:14
Pouring something out means that it is entirely gone. This is the symbolism of a drink offering. Everything is given to God, just as Jesus’ life was entirely poured out until the clay vessel was empty.
The oil poured on the pillar in the past was a picture of the Spirit resting upon Jesus in preparation for His work. All of that work was pictured by the events of Jacob’s life since that time. Each of the stories we’ve looked at have detailed His work and His life.
Now Jacob pours both a drink offering and then oil on the pillar. This then is a picture His death on the cross and His resurrection by the return of the Spirit to Him. All the work has been fulfilled and we can see the circle is complete in this act.
15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.
In fulfillment of Jacob’s words in chapter 28, the place is formally called Bethel, the House of God. If you can see how it all fits, the Lord was above the Ladder and Jacob was on the earth. He called the name of the place Bethel in anticipation of the fulfilled promise.
In the interim chapters, there have been all of the stories which show the actual work of the Lord in redemptive history – through the dispensations of time and in all ages. Now Jacob is again in the same place, but God isn’t above the ladder, God is there with him. Bethel has now become an actual spot where God’s people reside.
Because of the work of Jesus, the hope of Revelation 21 is seen anticipated in today’s verses. There it says –
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holyJerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. (9-11)
The place where Jesus, the Stone the builders rejected, now reigns is Bethel, the House of God. Because of Jesus, it will come down from heaven to dwell with men. But earlier He entered humanity through the people who will issue from Jacob. Again, we’re seeing Jacob’s life being used in several ways at one time.
His actions are picturing the Lord and yet his life is being dedicated to the coming of the Lord. To see this more clearly we can do another comparison like the one earlier. This is the account from chapter 28 when he was in Bethel the first time and also the verses we’ve looked at today –
Jacob has a vision in a dream
God appears to Jacob
Lord is in heaven above the ladder
God is there with Jacob
I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac
I am El Shaddai (the omnipotent God)
The land I will give to you and your descendants
The land I give to you and to your descendants
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep
Then God went up from him
Jacob… took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar
Jacob set up a pillar of stone in the place where He talked with him
And poured oil on top of it
And he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it
He called the name of that place Bethel (a vision of the House of God)
He called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel (the place where God resides)
Although passages like the six verses we’ve looked at may not have a lot that we can apply to our lives directly, there is an abundance that we can apply indirectly. They haven’t told us how to live our lives or how to treat our children, but they tell us that God is in complete control of what is going on.
From the distant past in a little piece of land in the Middle East come stories which tell us of heaven’s glory, God’s wisdom, and the Lord’s concern for even the smallest details of how things work in both the earthly and the spiritual realms. If He cares this much about such details, then how much more does He care about the other things, like your marriage and your health.
Sometimes, the Bible might seem too deep or it may have so much detail that it can be overwhelming, but the detail has been given by God to clarify and expand upon a very simple message. It is a message of hope and reconciliation. It is a message of glory to God and glory for us and it all centers on Jesus.
He is the point and purpose of everything God is doing in history to bring us back to Himself. If you will allow me just another minute, I would like to remove some of the depth and tell you the simple message of our need for Him…
Closing Verse: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them. 4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. Exodus 6:2-4
Next Week: Genesis 35:16-27 (The Circle of Life) (89th Genesis Sermon) – Make sure to read and study those verses.
The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.
The House of God
Then God appeared to Jacob again
When from Padan Aram he came
And blessed him right there and then
And God said to him, “Jacob, about your name…”
“Your name is Jacob, as you know
Your name shall not be called Jacob anymore
But Israel shall be your name, this I bestow
So He called his name Israel, a name of good report
Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty
Be fruitful and multiply as I have now said
A nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you
And kings shall come from your body in the years ahead
The land which to Abraham and Isaac I gave
I give to you, it is your inherited right
And to your descendants after you, this road I pave
I give this land, and I do so with delight
Then God went up from him in the place
Where He talked with him, there to his face
So Jacob set up a pillar in the place
Where He talked with him, there at Bethel
A pillar of stone; and he poured upon its face
A drink offering, and he poured oil on it as well
And Jacob called the place there by the name
Where God spoke with him, Bethel, this he did proclaim
God’s house is His heavenly throne
And from it He is the ruler of all things
Someday it will be our eternal home
It is for this future glory, that the hopeful soul sings
This hope we have because of the Lord Jesus
His heavenly home He left to come to earth
While here he fulfilled the law and died for us
In order to give us the chance at new birth
And He prevailed over the grave
Rising from the dead to justify us
And the repentant sinner He will save
Such is the grace of the Lord Jesus
All glory to the Lamb who died for you and me
And who has secured for us the promise of life eternally
Hallelujah and Amen…