After the fall in Eden and the global flood, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became the three pillars upon which God built His redemptive plan for humanity. These three were the beginning of the nation of Israel and the foundation of a chosen lineage from which a messiah would rise. The Messiah, a descendant of Abraham, will bring back humanity to eternal fellowship with the Creator.
Each year on the third week of the Torah-reading cycle, synagogues study a portion of the Bible called Lech-Lecha, which often is translated from Hebrew as “Go!” Abram’s obedient response to this command in Genesis 12 sets in motion a fundamental covenant that becomes a theological bracket around which the whole biblical narrative is presented. Land, seed, and blessing, the promises that God gave Abram, are the three elements that bind Israel’s history as a strong, three-cord rope that cannot be torn.
The journey that began for Abraham in Ur parallels the calling for humanity to return to the Promised Land of an eternal relationship with God.
Abram was renamed Abraham. His calling marked the beginning of the line of Israel, a chosen nation that continued through Isaac and Jacob and led to the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. In the fullness of time, when Zechariah was reflecting on God’s redemptive plan for His people, he realized the holy oath God gave to Abraham was coming to fruition, giving Israel and the fallen world hope for salvation.1 The journey that began for Abraham in Ur parallels the calling for humanity to return to the Promised Land of an eternal relationship with God.
The Miracle of Creation
Abraham’s descendants Isaac and Jacob mirror Abraham’s experience. Their lives are stories of recurring problems their forefather encountered, moments of reassurance of God’s promises, and journeys that transformed them into figures of faith. Both Isaac and Jacob were living testimonies of the promise that Abraham received from God. The continuation of God’s miraculous intervention in their lives is an assurance that God will fulfill all the promises given to Abraham.
Just as God called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He was also the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. Through those three women, God revealed His power and commitment to the promise. God transformed Sarai, a 90-year-old barren woman, into Sarah, who became the mother of nations. Rebekah, the chosen bride for Isaac, only became pregnant with twins after his prayer. She was the one to whom God revealed it would be the younger son, Jacob, who would carry the promise to the next generation—something that even Isaac could not see. And finally, Rachel, chosen by Jacob and loved dearly, struggled with the great pain of not giving birth. She returned to the mistake of her grandmother Sarah and tried to solve the problem herself.
The creation of the nation of Israel is a miracle showing us the commitment of God to carry on His promises despite human downfalls and weaknesses.
Eventually, we learn that Rachel also understood only God can take away disgrace and shame.2 She gave birth to Joseph, who God used to save the whole nation of Israel. All these stories connected to God’s creation of the chosen line show it was not an ordinary event. Not only did God miraculously intervene in the whole process, but He also worked against human logic that would try to undermine the sovereignty of His choice.3 Therefore the creation of the nation of Israel is a miracle showing us the commitment of God to carry on His promises despite human downfalls and weaknesses.
The Exile and Return
The story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also a picture of all of humanity. All three biblical heroes left the Promised Land and lived in a foreign country. Abraham went to Egypt, where he lied to Pharaoh about Sarah being his sister. Imminent destruction of the promised line was only prevented because God did not allow it. On his way to Egypt, Isaac was stopped by God in Gerar, the land of Abimelech, king of the Philistines. Like his father, Isaac lied, calling Rebekah his sister and creating envy in the hearts of the Philistines due to his prosperity. Eventually Isaac was forced to leave their land.
Jacob left the land twice. First, as a young boy, he escaped from the anger of his brother Esau to live in Paddan-Aram, located today on a Syrian and Turkish border. This time Jacob did not deceive, but he was deceived by Laban and suffered envy caused by his prosperity. Eventually, Jacob left Laban in secret, fear, and hurry. The second time Jacob left the land was as an elder, after which point he never returned. However, on his deathbed, he ordered his sons to bury him in the grave of Abraham and Isaac in the Machpelah cave in Hebron. And so the cycle of the three patriarchs ended in the land promised by God.
This was not the end of the story but a forecast for what was to come. When Joseph died, the whole nation of Israel was enslaved and suffered in Egypt. In the wilderness, God revealed Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.4 Moses became a savior of his people, delivered them from slavery, and brought them back to their forefathers’ Promised Land. The tomb of Joseph in Egypt became empty, as his bones were also taken to land bought by Abraham and promised by God. The people of God were not only freed from slavery but also sent on a special mission. Just as God sent Abraham to the Promised Land, so were the Hebrews sent to re-enter the Promised Land and continue fulfilling the promises. The Parashah5 that describes Israel’s departure from Egypt is called B’shallach and can be translated as “after he had sent.” We read that Pharaoh let the people of God go, but God also forced him to send them. We can compare that to Jesus’ disciples, who were sent to complete a certain task.
Perhaps we don’t have to look at the Israelites as being let go from a cage but sent for a specific purpose of God. The nation of Israel was not just under the slavery of Egypt, but a certain reality, a dark reality, a kingdom where Pharaoh ruled this evil system that created itself in the fallen world. People viewed Egypt as the dominant country with all its religion and false gods. In this reality, humans lost their close relationship with God, who once walked among His creatures. In a symbolic way, humanity was also exiled from the Promised Land of Paradise in Eden. The beginning of the reverse of this desperate reality is God’s selection of Abraham to bring humanity to the Promised Land of New Eden. God chooses a nation and promises land, which gives humanity a physical reminder that He will reverse the curse of the fall.
If God did not destroy Egypt’s power, free the Hebrews from slavery, and bring them back to the land, the way for the Messiah to come would not be prepared.
The Hebrews who left Egypt and entered the land from exile were God’s emissaries for the perfect redemptive plan. God dealt with this dark reality and broke the chosen nation’s chains so that our chains could be broken in the future. It’s a real story that is part of our story today. If God did not destroy Egypt’s power, free the Hebrews from slavery, and bring them back to the land, the way for the Messiah to come would not be prepared.
The Hope for the Messiah
In the dramatic description of Jacob’s blessings of his sons, we can see how the Messianic hopes became strong in the Hebrews’ hearts. On his deathbed, Jacob said, “For Your salvation I wait, Lᴏʀᴅ.”6 Through the inspiration of God, Jacob resisted his greatest love toward Joseph and laid down the prophetic hope of salvation on Judah. He who took away the blessing from his father’s favorite son, Esau, now understood this pain and had to obey God’s will. Judah was selected to become the tribe from which the future King Messiah will come. In Genesis 49:11 we read, “He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine.” Of course, the prophecy could be interpreted as the abundance of crops, meaning that the crops will be so good and thick that it will be possible to bind animals to them. But this prophecy is much more, which we see as we read Zechariah and the Gospels. It is a description of the qualities of the Messiah. In Zechariah 9:9, we read that the Messiah will ride the donkey, and we see a fulfillment of this in Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem. Jesus is also the royal vine, the true vine to which Israel’s Messianic hope is tied.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the beginning of God’s preparations to bring humanity back to paradise. And it is because of God’s ancient promise to Abraham that we have salvation in the Messiah. God chose to call Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The many lessons in their lives answer why this was a title by which He wanted to be recognized.
1 Zechariah’s Prophecy (Luke 1:67–79).
2 When Rachel became pregnant with Joseph she said, “God has taken away my disgrace” (Genesis 20:33).
3 Jacob, who was younger, was chosen over Esau.
4 Exodus 3:6..
5 Parashah is a weekly Torah portion read in the synagogues.
6 Genesis 49:18.