Friday, June 20, 2008

Jacob as a type of Christ

Recently someone mentioned Jacob as a type of Christ. We know that there is much in Jacob that was sinful and certainly could never be typical of Christ. We must look at the types, however, in terms of their office and public role rather than their personal characteristics. Jonathan Edwards says in one of his letters that 'the word of God came to Jacob, as a type of Christ, 1 Kings 18:31'. the latter verse highlights Jacob's new name of Israel, this is also a name used for Christ in prophecy. It was promised to Jacob that he would become 'a multitude of people'(Genesis 28:3). In the Greek translation the Septuagaint, the word is ecclesia which is the Greek for Church. Israel means 'prince with God' and Christ is a Prince and Saviour, the prince of the kings of the earth.

Jacob was a type of Christ in his priestly office especially in Genesis 31:54. Before Aaron was High Priest the patriarchs as heads of households were priests and offered sacrifices which was afterward reflected in the passover where the head of the household sacrificed the lamb. Genesis 31:54 is also in the context of a covenant being ratified through a covenant meal see Exodus 18:12 and Ex 24.

We should look at the covenant blessing of Jacob (Genesis 27:29) and remember that Christ confirmed the promises made to the patriarchs in these covenants (Rom 15:8). The blessing 'Let people serve thee' and 'nations bow down to thee' is prophetic of Christ and only fulfilled in Him (Dan. 7:14; Zech. 8:23; Is. 60:12;Ps. 72:11). He also says 'Be Lord over thy brethren' and 'Let thy mother's sons bow down to thee' which is fulfilled in Christ (Phil. 2:11; James 1:1 1 Cor. 15:7). Jacob speaks of 'the children which God hath graciously given thy servant'; similarly to Christ who says 'Behold I and the children thou hast given me' (Heb 2:13). There is also a reflection of the love of Christ for His Church in that of Jacob for Rachel.

Sometimes particular identifications of typology can be controversial. Patrick Fairbairn in his volumes on Typology takes the Puritan Thomas Taylor to task for
some of the seventeen instances that he discovered between Jacob and Christ. Fairbairn said that Taylor does not scruple 'to swell the number by occasionally taking in acts of sin, as well as circumstances of an altogether trivial nature. Thus, Jacob s being a supplanter of his brother, is made to represent Christ's supplanting death, sin, and Satan; his being obedient to his parents in all things, Christ s subjection to His heavenly Father and His earthly parents ; his purchasing his birthright by red pottage, and obtaining the blessing by presenting savoury venison to his father, clothed in Esau's garment, Christ's purchasing the heavenly inheritance to us by His red blood, and obtaining the blessing by offering up the savoury meat of His obedience, in the borrowed garment of our nature, etc.'

Fairbairn says that 'the analogy they found upon was a merely superficial resemblance appearing between things in the Old and other things in the New Testament Scriptures. But resemblances of this sort are so extremely multifarious, and appear also so different according to the point of view from which they are contemplated, that it was obviously possible for any one to take occasion through them to introduce the most frivolous conceits, and to caricature rather than vindicate the grand theme of the Gospel'.

There are no doubt, however, many more correspondences between Christ and Jacob that I have not mentioned above which do not come under Fairbairn's censure.