6. 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.

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 Yihvah 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 Yihvah be my God.”

Why does the official Targum of the Jewish Synagogue say that “the Word of Yihvah” was Jacob’s God?

Let us remember how God made the Messenger of God, Jacob’s “God,” so that he would finally say, “the God who has been my Shepherd  all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil” (Genesis 48:15–16).

Genesis 28:13, 20 – if the Word of Yihvah be my help, then Yihvah be my God

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

The author of Genesis, Moses, told us that Jacob saw Yihvah standing above a ladder, on which the Angels of God were ascending and descending. Moses was referring to Yihvah, the Messenger, who appeared to him at the burning bush. To Jacob, Yihvah probably looked like all the Angels of God who were ascending the ladder.

The Messenger, speaking for the invisible God, said, “I am Yihvah, the God (ELOHIM) of Abraham your father..” (Genesis 28:13).

The Palestine Targum translates Jacob’s reply in Genesis 28:20–21, as “If the Word of Yihvah will be my Helper . . . then Yihvah will be my God.” Here, it seems that Jacob has presumed that the name of the Messenger is also Yihvah, but his uncertainty is revealed in Genesis 32:29.

Genesis 31:11–13 – I am God that appeared to you in the place of God

In this passage, Jacob said, “the Messenger (MALAK) of God said to me in a dream  . . . ‘I am the God (EL) of Bethel, where you made a vow to Me.’”  Here, the Messenger used the singular, EL, to tell Jacob, that he had made a vow to Him.

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

Genesis 32:22–32 – I have seen ELOHIM face to face

Here, Jacob fled from his brother Esau, and while he was alone, he wrestled with a man until daybreak.

In Genesis 32:1, we read, “the Messengers of God met him.” Having just seen the Messengers of God (in verse 1), Jacob likely recognized this man as a Messenger of God.

In Genesis 32:9, Jacob called on “Yihvah, who said to me, “‘Return to your country…'” In his expression, “Yihvah, who said to me,” we can see that he wants to identify the God who spoke to him in Genesis 28 as his God. His words also reveal his understanding that there was more than one God who might be able to hear his prayer.

The man who wrestled with him said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel; for you have striven with ELOHIM and with men and prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob asked the man, “please tell me your name.” But the man just replied: “why is it that you ask My name?” (Genesis 32:29).

Then Jacob said, “I have seen ELOHIM face to face and yet my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).

Jacob knew that he wrestled with the Messenger, the One called “ELOHIM,” who called Himself a “God” in Genesis 31. But Jacob revealed his uncertainty about His name. For how could the Messenger of God also be called Yihvah?

Genesis 35:1–11 – God said, “make an altar to the EL who appeared to you”

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 called the Angel, his God

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, Yihvah, appeared to . . . Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name Yihvah 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.

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

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

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 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 7:45–48).

The Targumim consistently used 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 is the temple prophesied by Ezekiel, the dwelling place of God in spirit, which we find in the Book of Revelation: “Behold! the tabernacle of God with men” (Revelation 21:3).

The Spirit of Christ was the ELOHIM of Israel (Jacob)

Through Christ, the invisible God spoke to Jacob, who He renamed Israel. He asked Jacob 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 ELOHIM was only 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.