Volume 42, Issue 1 ________________________________Bible Prophecy Ministry

The Time of "Jacob's Trouble"

The world is drawing closer and closer to an affixed point in human history that shall catapult the whole world into the epic drama of the Great tribulation. That epic era is depicted in the life and times of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob.

Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, (Tribulation era-Day of the Lord) so that none is like it: it is even the time of “Jacob's Trouble”; but he (Israel) shall be saved out of it.

The story in Genesis 32, in which Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, is a prophecy of the final conflict, called “The day of the Lord.” As the father of the Twelve Tribes, he is central to the development of many Bible themes. The very course of his life foreshadows the future of his people, even to the coming dark night of the “Great Tribulation”. There are amazing similarities between his persona and the inner nature of national Israel. In and of themselves, the names of Jacob and Israel, literally define the people called by God to secure the land grant promised to his grandfather, Abraham.

His very birth acted out the conflict of the ages, one that still rages between the people of the world and the people of the Lord. The youngest of twin sons, Jacob followed Esau into the world. As he was taking his first breath, he grasped Esau's heel. The twins were locked in a symbolic combat that depicted the very real and long-lived combat that continues even today, almost four thousand years later.

Esau is Edom, the symbol of pagan idolatry. Jacob, on the other hand, represents adherence to the patriarchal blessing that came through Abraham and Isaac. He schemed to obtain it and struggled to keep it. In the end, he became the mature and holy Israel, father to the Twelve Tribes.

He began his life as Jacob, in Hebrew spoken as Yakov. His name is usually translated as “supplanter,” or “one who takes by scheming and trickery.” As anyone who has studied his life knows, it was by such methods that he stole the blessing that, by traditional rights, should have gone to Esau. The older son, however, had already spurned his own birthright. Armed with this knowledge, Jacob was quick to act upon the opportunity to take it.

Interestingly, the primary root of Jacob's name is akev, meaning both “trickery” and the “reward that comes as a consequence of action taken.” Amazingly, it is also the common word for “heel.” Thus, his very name brings us back to the action taken at his birth, when he grasped Esau's heel. This struggle had actually begun in the distant past, when Satan corrupted mankind's first couple.

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14,15).

This image of cosmic struggle is that of a wrestling match, in which battling opponents grapple with each other. Injury is inflicted in the process, by far the most serious being inflicted upon the serpent. These verses have been repeatedly mentioned as the keys to Messianic prophecy. It is often pointed out that the great battle of God's redemption is dynamically stated in the battle of the serpent's seed versus the woman's seed: the Messiah.

The Bible makes it clear that when Jacob grasped the heel of Esau, he was attempting to attain primacy as the patriarch through whom the Messiah would come. In Genesis 25:22,23, we read that when Rebekah had earlier conceived, she became aware of a great conflict raging within her:

“And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Upon their birth, Esau, being the firstborn, carried the responsibility of the patriarchal line. At this point in the conflict, Esau's position placed him as primary in the Messianic line. But as the conflict matured, Jacob was changed from “heel-grasper” to warrior in the lineage of the Messiah. He became “Israel.” This name has a number of meanings, but one of its principal interpretations is “one who fights for God.”

With Rebekah's help, Jacob deceived Isaac into believing that he was the eldest son. She put the skins of goats upon Jacob's arms to make him seem hairy. We can assume that both she and Jacob acted upon their observation that Esau loathed his birthright. Their amazing deception awarded him the patriarchal blessing. But it also earned him the wrath of Esau: ( father of Edom )

Genesis 27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.

Jacob, The Wrestler

After acquiring his wife from Laban, Jacob set out for Israel, but was afraid that upon trying to enter into the Promised Land that Esau might kill him. Thus the stage was set for an event that foreshadows historic changes that still yet lie in our future.

Hosea 12: 2-4 The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.

Jacob wasn't searching for a fight on the night he was set to return across Jordan. He sent his family and servants and all of his possessions ahead of him, remaining completely alone. Presumably he intended to spend the night in prayer and supplication. But his prayer ended up being a deeply moving contest, in which he literally fought for the future of his people.

Genesis 32:22-28 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. “And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. “And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. “And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. “And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Just as Jacob's wrestling match was not against a mere man, neither was it simply a physical conflict. Rather, it was a conflict of body, soul and spirit. Jacob, acting as patriarch, sought a special blessing on the eve of his meeting with Esau, the man who, twenty years earlier, had sworn to kill him. Doubtless, Jacob was deeply concerned about the possibility of being wiped out by Esau's army. Furthermore, he knew that it was by duplicity that he had obtained Isaac's blessing in the first place.

Jacob's weeping, prayer and physical grappling became a total expression of his desire to survive and thrive. He prayed on the basis of the covenant that God had made with Abraham. God's answer came in the form of this personal contact. Jacob's prayer was answered, but to save him from Esau, the Lord met him as an enemy in the night. The message was clear: He had to “defeat” the Lord as judge, before he could defeat his brother. He did so, not in the strength of his flesh, but by faith and prayer. Furthermore, he was wounded in the process. All night long they struggled. Such was Jacob's great faith that the Lord did not prevail against him. In a symbolic act, He touched Jacob's hip in a way that caused it to dislocate. For the rest of his life, his crippling wound was a reminder of the conflict.

Jacob's great struggle of faith resulted in his being blessed with the blessing of the Lord. That blessing remains to this day, and is a remarkable token of God's enduring grace. He changed Jacob's name from its former, human designation to a title of spiritual triumph. The “grasper of the heel,” and the “one who takes by deception and deceit,” now became

Thus, the name of Israel means, “one who fights God and prevails.” Modern Israelis also point out that under the rules of Hebrew grammar, the name also means, “One for whom God fights and prevails.” Taken in turn, each of these name meanings represents the long history of Israel and its people.

Having passed through a long, dark night of personal tribulation, Jacob became Israel. In his struggle, he received both injury and blessing. Thus, he became the archetype for the future struggle of the nation of Israel. Israel's struggle had barely begun. It stretched out across the centuries to come, and even today, its culmination is still future to us. Once more, Israel will wrestle with the Lord for a blessing. Bible prophecy tells us that Israel will win that blessing, but not without a physical and spiritual struggle, and not without battle scars.

The Future Time of Jacob's Trouble

The “Day of the Lord” commences with a period of time known as the Great Tribulation. Jesus, Himself, used this term in Matthew 24:21: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This great prophecy is a direct answer to the disciples' questions about when He would come as Messiah to rule Israel. He tells them that there would be world wars, famines, pestilences, “sorrows,” and afflictions. He also tells them that they would be, “… hated of all nations for my name's sake” (Matthew 24:9).

Jesus spent a great deal of time making it clear to his disciples that although the promised Kingdom would one day be secured, it would not be without great deal of effort and suffering on Israel's part. He even calls this long period, “the beginning of sorrows,” where the word “sorrows” is translated from the Greek word for “birth pangs.” And Israel's rebirth, and its pain prior to birth is a major Bible theme. As was the case with Jacob, the pains will wrack the body, soul and spirit of Israel

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies to this effect. A good example is to be found in Isaiah 17, where the Old Testament prophet delivers the famous narrative concerning the Burden of Damascus prophecy. In this prophecy, the world's oldest continuously-inhabited city is said to be flattened, and erased from existence. This calamity happens in the contextual setting of the “Day of the Lord,” the ancient term for Israel's Time of Trouble, or Jacob's Trouble. It is the time of the great harvest, when the Lord comes forth to judge all the nations. And we are today at the very doorstep of that climactic episode. The current age will end in a massive overturning of powers, accompanied by massive and tremendous geophysical and meteorological catastrophes unmatched in the history of the world. But in the end, Israel will emerge triumphant, as first witnessed in the episode of Jacob's dark night of trouble. The prophet Jeremiah wrote extensively about Israel's latter-day return to the Promised Land. In chapter 30 of his prophecy, he writes of Israel's return in terms of birth pangs, the expression also used by Jesus, when He responded to the varied questions put to him by the disciples.

Jeremiah 30:3-7 For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. “And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

In this scripture passage, we are reminded of Jacob's long dark night of struggle, when he wept, pleaded and fervently prayed through the night, all the while being embroiled in a physical contest with the angel of the Lord. Jeremiah is struck with the turmoil of this period, and describes it as being so startling that it looks like a physical impossibility. The nation of Israel will labor as a woman giving birth. Like their ancient patriarch, they will struggle to remain alive and realize the dream of bringing in the Kingdom. But, as Jeremiah says, Israel will be rescued from the turmoil in the end.

Jesus stated it this way in Matthew 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Graciously, the Lord will bring the time of Trouble to an end. And when He does, Israel will fully realize the plan that He has had from time immemorial. Finally, Israel will be free to live in peace.

But as the old narrative of Genesis 32 nears its end, we find the crippled Jacob crossing the Jabbok at sunrise and heading toward the land of Esau. Symbolically, he has entered into the “Day of the Lord.”

Proceeding forward, we find that Jacob bowed himself before Esau. To his surprise, Esau greeted him, not with the threats of a warrior, but with tears and affection. Their meeting brought a peaceful agreement. Soon enough, they came to a point of separation, and Esau headed southward, toward Seir. The conflict between Jacob and Esau is still to be resolved. This, of course, will happen during the “Time of Jacob's trouble.” After the return of the Messiah, there will be indeed be a reconciliation between Israel and the nations, who will in return pay tribute to Israel.

Jacob ( Israel ) Enters the Kingdom

And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth” (Genesis 33:17).

“Succoth” is the common name for “booths” or “shelters.” It is noteworthy that the last of Israel's seven feasts bears this very name. During this festival each year, Jews build symbolic booths for themselves, as they look forward to the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom. Just as Jacob's wrestling match represents Israel under judgment and the dark night of Rosh HaShannah and the Days of Awe, his residence here represents the Feast of Tabernacles. Jacob, as Israel, is traveling the timeline of his people's destiny. After that, he entered the Land and established a permanent place of worship: After that, he entered the Land and established a permanent place of worship:

“And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. “And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.

“And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:18-20). As described here, Jacob traveled the final leg of his homeward journey. Crossing the Jordan, he came to the territory of Shechem in central Canaan. There he purchased a field. He wanted to establish the permanent right to the Land by means of a legitimate purchase. So Jacob symbolically concluded the long journey to the spiritual city that will one day be the capital city of the world. Also, soon Jesus shall conclude his long journey to the city of Jerusalem. The weeping over Jerusalem shall end, and he shall establish his righteousness on Zion! In the days of the Kingdom, the nations will come there to pay tribute, in recognition of the King of Kings and Lord of lords. There, Jacob built an altar to “Elelohe-Israel,” or “God, the God of Israel.”

The father of the Twelve Tribes began his journey as the erstwhile Jacob; he concluded it as the holy Israel. By the grace of God, his life became a model of national Israel as a whole, and an example to all the nations of the world.

Micah 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Soon, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah shall return unto Israel to save them from the wrath of Esau's descendants, and shall lead them into full sovereign possession of the land and the Kingdom, and Jerusalem shall be his throne! Just as Jacob struggled with the Lord for a blessing, Israel has struggled with nations of this world for centuries, but soon the entire world shall indeed be blessed by the God of Jacob. Truly then, it will be that the Lion shall lie down with the Lamb……

Psalms 20:1-2 The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;

Psalms 41:1-2 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.

Jeremiah 14:7-8 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?

Psalms 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

Psalms 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

Daniel 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people ( Israel ) shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Zephaniah 1:14-15 The great Day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a Day of Trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.

Author: Darrell G. Young

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