7. The God of Jacob

The God who has been my Shepherd, the Angel who redeemed me

Then God (ELOHIM) said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to
Bethel and dwell there, and make an altar there to
God (EL) who APPEARED to you when you fled from
the face of Esau your brother.”

Genesis 35:1

In Genesis 35, God made the Messenger, the “EL” of Jacob. It wasn’t until God introduced the Messenger to Moses, in Exodus 3, that the Spirit of Christ was called “YHVH ELOHIM.”

Before we look at that, let us remember how God made the man Jacob wrestle with “God”:

“the God who has been my Shepherd 1  all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:15–16).

In Genesis 28, Jacob was in Bethel and had a dream where he saw YHVH standing at the top of a ladder.

The Targum Onkelos, the “official” Jewish Targum of the Pentateuch, records Jacob’s vow in Genesis 28:20, 21 as:

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “if the Word of YHVH will be my support, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I again come to my father’s house in peace; then the Word of YHVH be my God.”

The Palestine and Onkelos Targums both call the God who “helps” Jacob, “the Word,” in Genesis 28:20, 31:3, and 35:3.

Why do the Targums say that “the Word of YHVH” was Jacob’s God?

And why did Jacob in Genesis 48:15–16 believe “the God who has been my Shepherd all my life long” was an Angel???

Genesis 28:13, 20

Moses told us that Jacob saw YHVH standing above a ladder, on which the Angels of God were ascending and descending. Moses was referring to YHVH, the Messenger, who appeared to him at the burning bush. Therefore, to Jacob, YHVH probably looked just like the Angels of God who were ascending the ladder.

Here, the Palestine Targum is more correct than the Onkelos Targum, which we cited earlier.

The Palestine Targum translates Genesis 28:20–21, as “If the Word of YHVH will be my Helper . . . then YHVH will be my God.” Because God Almighty had not yet made “the Word”—the Messenger, the God of Jacob. Jacob understood that the Messenger of God was only the speaker for God, as we noted in Chapter 6. He did not know the name of the Messenger (Exodus 6:3). Rather, he understood the Messenger was speaking for God, saying, “I am YHVH” in verse 13. The Targum Onkelos was written after Christ and was not inspired.

Genesis 31:11–13

Jacob said, “the Messenger (MALAK) of God said to me in a dream  . . . ‘I am the God of Bethel, where you made a vow to Me.’” By the end of his life, Jacob believed that his God was the “Angel of God.” Jacob did not say that he saw the Angel of God, and may have just assumed that the Angel of God was the speaker.

In the Greek Septuagint, Genesis 31:13 reads, “I am God that appeared to you in the place of God.”

Genesis 32:22–32

Jacob fled from his brother Esau, and while he was alone, he wrestled with a man until daybreak. The man told Jacob, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel; for you have striven with ELOHIM and with men and prevailed.”

When Jacob asked the man, “please tell me your name,” the man replied: “why is it that you ask My name?” Just a few verses earlier, in Genesis 32:1, we read, “the Messengers of God met him.” Jacob likely recognized the man as a Messenger of God, and so he asked the man His name. But on hearing the man’s reply, Jacob must have concluded that he was wrestling with God Almighty, for Jacob said, “I have seen ELOHIM face to face and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).

Genesis 35:1–11

In Genesis 35:1, God (speaking through Christ) told Jacob to return to Bethel and make an altar to “the God” (EL) (the Messenger), who “appeared” to him when he fled from his brother. Here, God used the singular form “EL.”

So Jacob told his wives to put away their foreign gods, saying, “I will make an altar there to the God (EL) who answered me in my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone” (Genesis 35:3).

Genesis 35:9 reads, “God appeared again when he came from Paddan-aram,” and in verse 11, He said, “I am God Almighty.” Therefore, Jacob believed he was talking to “God Almighty” in Genesis 35:1, and Jacob believed that God Almighty had made the Messenger of God, his God.

Genesis 48:3–4, 15–16

Jacob recounted the appearance of “God Almighty” in Genesis 35, saying, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz and blessed me” (Genesis 48:3). Of course, Jacob only thought that he saw God Almighty. In fact, Jacob saw the Spirit of Christ, in the appearance of “God Almighty.” We know this from Exodus 6:3, where we read “I, YHVH, appeared to . . . Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name YHVH I was not known to them.”

In verses 15–16, Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph, saying, “the God who has been my Shepherd all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless these boys.”

Jacob really believed that God Almighty had made “the Messenger” his God.

God Almighty made the Messenger to be Jacob’s God

In Genesis 35:1, God told Jacob to make an altar to the “EL” who appeared to him when he fled from his brother. In verses 9–11, “God” appeared “again,” introducing Himself as “God Almighty.” So Jacob understood that “God Almighty” had made the Messenger, his God.

Before meeting with “God Almighty” in Genesis 35, Jacob saw the Messenger of God on two different occasions, when he was fleeing from his brother, in Genesis 28 and 32. Jacob’s words in Genesis 35:3, “the God who answered me in my distress,” can only refer to the “God” who came to wrestle with him, after his prayer in Genesis 32:9–12. Then, in Genesis 35:10, God Almighty blessed Jacob with the same words of the Messenger in Genesis 32:28. So Jacob must have concluded that the Messenger of God he wrestled with was “another God.”

Therefore, the children of Israel understand that their father’s God was the Angel of YHVH, the “ELOHIM,” “the Word of YHVH”—the Speaker for Almighty God.

The Spirit of Christ was the ELOHIM of Israel (Jacob)
Through Christ, the invisible God spoke to Jacob, who He renamed Israel and asked him to make an altar to the ELOHIM who appeared to him when he fled from his brother.

In fact, we know from Exodus 6:2–3 that this was the Messenger, who had only appeared to Jacob as God Almighty.

In his final days, Jacob blessed his sons, asking the Angel who appeared to him to remember his sons. He called the Angel, his God.

The Tabernacle of the God of Jacob, and the Tabernacle of the Most High God

The expression, “the God of Jacob,” was used by Stephen to explain the difference between “the God” who met with Moses in the tabernacle and the Most High God, who dwells in the Church today.

“David . . . found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built Him a house. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands.” (Acts 7:45-47)

Therefore, the Targums consistently use the expression “the Word” to describe the God who met with Moses in the tabernacle of the Old Testament:

“at the door of the tabernacle of ordinance before the Lord; where I will appoint My Word to (meet) you there, to speak with you there” (Exodus 29:42, 30:36, 33:9, Leviticus 1:1, Numbers 17:4 [Pseudo Jonathan]).

The dwelling place of the Most High God was the temple prophesied by Ezekiel, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit, which we find in the Book of Revelation: “Behold! the tabernacle of God with men” (Revelation 21:3).

 


  1. hā·rō·‘eh: as used also in Songs 6:3, Jeremiah 43:12, Amos 3:12, and Zechariah 13:7.