By Buel Hallpike
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What could Yahweh have meant when He said through the prophet Isaiah "I will ... feed you with the heritage of Jacob" (Isa 58:14), and is this relevant to us today?
Before we can unravel the meaning of this promise and understand its significance to us, we need first to fit this verse into the context of the preceding verses to see why this promise was made. After this we shall look at the promises made many years earlier to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in our attempt to discover this unique promise to the house of Jacob. It is hoped that in the end sufficient light would have been shed on the meaning of this verse that we will see more clearly its relevance and significance to a larger body of people, even to us today.
In chapter 58, Isaiah in a manner that was typical throughout his pronouncements in the book, fearlessly attacked the rebellious attitude of Israel, but equally expounded an alternative way that could lead to their bright future.
The whole chapter focuses upon the delusion and hypocrisy of Israel thinking they were pleasing Yahweh by merely going through the external motions of fasting (most likely Day of Atonement). Instead of being motivated to draw nearer to Yahweh, they were assured by their deadened consciences that they were pleasing Him. Ignorant yet arrogant, they asked, "Why have we fasted … and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?" verse 3.
It was to counter such complacency, fallacy and audacity that the prophet Isaiah was commanded in this chapter to "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" Isa 58:1. Israel’s presumptuous outward shows of obedience outraged rather than pleased Yahweh. They were doing many wrong things, and the right things they did such as fasting or seeking Yahweh, were with the wrong motives and attitudes. It was as if they thought Yahweh could be hoodwinked by their piousness. Through His prophet Isaiah, Yahweh said that the fast that He had chosen was "to loose the bonds of wickedness" (verse 6), not for them to do injustice and to indulge themselves at the expense of others, while making a token gesture of honouring Him. The chapter continued by detailing these wrongdoings and showing how their circumstances would change when they returned to the old paths and rebuilt the old waste places (verse 12).
In verses 13 and 14, Yahweh was promising them that if they ceased their transgression of the Sabbath or Holy Days laws and would return to delighting in the Sabbath, they would be blessed in many ways and He would "feed [them] with the heritage of Jacob [their] father" - the heritage of Jacob? What could this be?
The Hebrew word used here for heritage is ‘nachalah’, which means possession bestowed by one person to another. It indicates material and spiritual inheritance. The NIV renders this verse, as "I will cause you … to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob". What then could Jacob’s descendants inherit?
Promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
To each of these three patriarchs Yahweh had made the same triple set of promises.
After Abraham had passed the sacrificial test at Moriah, Yahweh’s Angel appeared to Abraham and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says [Yahweh], because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice" Gen 22:16-18.
Later Yahweh said to Isaac, "Live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" Gen 26:2b-5.
When Yahweh appeared to Jacob in a dream at a place that Jacob later named Bethel, Yahweh said to him, "The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed" Gen 28:13-14.
Again when Yahweh appeared to Jacob a second time at Bethel, Yahweh said to him, "Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name." So He called his name Israel. Also [Elohim] said to him: "I am [El Shaddai]. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land" Gen 35:10-12.
Thus to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were given these threefold promises: a) land, b) innumerable descendants and c) blessings that would encompass and be of benefit to the whole earth. Together they provide vital clues to the meaning of "the heritage of Jacob".
Isaac’s blessings to Jacob
Jacob at the instigation of his conniving mother, and in keeping with his own devious nature, robbed his brother Esau of the blessing that their old and blind father Isaac had intended to be for Esau.
Isaac in blessing Jacob said:
"May [Yahweh] give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!" Gen 27:28, 29.
Although Isaac soon learned that he had been duped by Jacob, he could not retract the blessing. Words could not be easily withdrawn then as they are today. Isaac’s blessings were charged with the power of Yahweh, who does not make mistakes. (Earlier Esau had demonstrated an indifference to his inheritance when in a moment of intense hunger he sold his birthright to Jacob for some stew and bread (Gen 25:29-34)). The promise made to Jacob was Yahweh-backed and in accordance with the plan of Him who said: "Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness" Mal 1:2, 3. By both Yahweh and Isaac therefore this promise to Jacob was irrevocable.
The Material Heritage
The material inheritance of Jacob included everything that Yahweh had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the blessings of Isaac. These consisted of:
1) The land of Canaan and conquest of lands owned by Israel’s enemies "I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am [Yahweh]" Exod 6:8.
Referring to the great works of Yahweh, the psalmist stated, He defeated many nations and slew mighty kings -- Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan -- and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to Israel His people Ps 135:10-12.
The land was to be Israel’s permanent inheritance. Yahweh had said to Jacob that He would "give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession" Gen 48: 4.
2) An innumerably large family from which would come nations, spreading in all directions. (See once again Gen 28:13-14, Gen 35:11-12, and Gen 48:4).
3) Blessings by Yahweh and to those who blessed Israel, and a cursing to those who cursed Yahweh’s chosen people (Gen 27:29)
4) Abundant supplies (Gen 27:28) and
5) The high esteem of other nations (Gen 27:29).
These by themselves would have caused Jacob’s posterity to be the envy of all nations, but they are only the beginning!
The uniqueness of Jacob
Isaiah 58:14 is about the heritage of Jacob and not the heritage of Abraham and Isaac. This chapter like the rest of Isaiah’s prophecy is to the descendants of Jacob, who had become the nation of Israel. But that by itself does not fully justify the exclusive choice of Jacob. Since Jacob’s father Isaac and grandfather Abraham had also been promised Yahweh’s blessings, Isaiah could have referred to the heritage of Abraham or of Isaac instead of to that of Jacob. Why did he not do that?
John Gill in his commentary on this verse said that it was not Abraham, of whom it is written, "arise, walk through the land in the length of it," Gen 13:17, nor Isaac, of whom it is written, "for unto thee, and to thy seed, will I give all these countries," Gen 26:3, but Jacob, of whom it is written, "and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south," Gen 28:14, expressing the larger extent of the inheritance. (Bible references are from KJV).
He continued by stating: "the sons of Jacob, and not Ishmael the son of Abraham, nor Esau the son of Isaac, inherited the land of Canaan". Gill added that the more significant reason was that Jacob "is the father of all true Israelites, who are, as he was, wrestling and prevailing".
Matthew Poole’s explanation is that "the whole posterity of Jacob was within the covenant, but Ishmael and Esau, one the seed of Isaac, the other the seed of Abraham, were both excluded".
We have already shown from Malachi 1:2-3, that Yahweh had chosen Jacob in preference to Esau. It is not for anyone to question Yahweh’s choice. However we can confidently say that if the heritage that was to be passed on to posterity of all ages had been directly from Abraham’s or Isaac’s line, it would have of necessity included the descendants of Esau, whose heritage Yahweh had "laid waste … for the jackals of the wilderness."
Jacob had three divine revelations - once at Peniel (Gen 32:28) and twice at Bethel (Gen 28:14 and 35:10). Of these he was twice told that his name would be changed to Israel – no longer would he be called ‘the supplanter’ but instead a name that would indicate he had striven with El and had prevailed. Several meanings have been attributed to this name but the reason given in Gen 32:28 is the most dependable. "
Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with [Yahweh] and with men, and have prevailed.”
In some ways Jacob or his line provided a fundamental fresh start:
- By wrestling with and prevailing over the ‘angel’ of Yahweh, he had moved on from the level of prevailing over mere mortals to having a special relationship with the Almighty Yahweh.
- With Jacob and his family moving to Egypt at the time of the famine, the stage was set at his death, for the fulfilment of the prophecy of Israel becoming a nation. His twelve sons became the foundation stones of Yahweh’s specially chosen nation, which was named after their father Israel.
- It was from the line of Judah, Jacob’s fourth son that the Son of Yahweh, our Redeemer and Israel’s promised Messiah, was born.
Numbers 24:17 foretells not only the coming Messiah, but also shows the significance of Jacob: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel."
The significance of Jacob’s family throughout Bible history and prophecy transcends that of any other family. During the rest of the Old Testament, Israel grew to be a special people and nation. But there was one outstanding prophecy that did not happen in the Old Testament era. The nations of the earth had still not yet been blessed through this special nation. It is here we will discover the uniqueness of Jacob.
There is something extra special about Jacob. In him Yahweh showed He is capable of transforming the roughly cut stones of human nature and elevating them to be useful vessels for His purpose and glory. Jacob the cheat became a prince whom Yahweh blessed to be father of Yahweh’s special family. Jacob’s supremacy over his older brother Esau from birth, his blessing from his father Isaac, his encounter with the Angel of Yahweh, the change of his name, his two meetings with Yahweh, and his spectacular posterity that includes the Messiah, give proof that in spite of his faults, he had been chosen and blessed by Yahweh. Deut 32:9 tells us [Yahweh’s] portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. 1Chronicles16:13 refers to the "seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!" Jeremiah says, "Israel is the tribe of His inheritance" Jer 10:16.
Yahweh promised great things to Jacob.
[Elohim] said to him: "I am [El-Shaddai]. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body" Gen 35:11.
Later Jacob said to Joseph his son: "[El-Shaddai] appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession"' Gen 48:3, 4.
It requires no special insight to perceive that the inheritance of such a man, hand-picked and blessed by Yahweh, would have significant and far-reaching consequences for future generations.
The Eternal Heritage
Yahweh had something far greater in mind for the children of Israel (the offspring of Jacob) than the land of Canaan into which they had entered, since they all died having not obtained the promise (Heb 11:39).
Included in the heritage of Jacob and his descendants, is the all-encompassing promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. This transcends the material blessings in which Israel was to be the beneficiary from other nations. Now however in this promise, Israel was to be the benefactor. How would this heritage of being a blessing to others come about?
For generations following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, that episode had been unfinished. Yahweh had said in Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman (Yahshua), would bruise the serpent’s (Satan’s) head, but during early Bible History this did not happen.
Yahweh’s people multiplied and became the nation(s) of Israel, but their iniquities also multiplied. They walked in the footsteps of their first parents Adam and Eve, by showing an inability to obey Yahweh. Time and again in the history of Israel they had occupied the Promised Land when they obeyed Yahweh and were driven from it when they disobeyed. The result was that they did not have lasting enjoyment of the blessings of Yahweh. As their obedience and disobedience to Yahweh fluctuated, so too were the variations of their blessings and punishment. This was not Yahweh’s desire for His chosen people Israel.
The problem was rooted in their hearts. The prophet Jeremiah said in Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" That was Israel’s dilemma. If Israel were to continually experience the blessings Yahweh had in store for them, there had to be a change, which they were incapable of making. Until then, the blessings Yahweh had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could not fully materialise.
But Yahweh had a plan before the foundations of the world to resolve this predicament and to redeem not only Israel but also fallen mankind of all races to Himself, through Jacob’s lineage.
Jeremiah and Isaiah, like some of the other prophets, foretold how this would be accomplished through Judah’s line. Jeremiah prophesied of the Messiah who would bring righteousness to Israel and to the whole earth.
"Behold, the days are coming," says [Yahweh], "That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth" Jer 23:5.
"Behold, the days are coming," says [Yahweh], "that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely" Jer 33:14-16.
Jeremiah foresaw the day when the hearts of Israelites would be changed:
"Behold, the days are coming, says [Yahweh], when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah––not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them", says [Yahweh]. "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days", says [Yahweh]: "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their [Elohim], and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know [Yahweh],’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them", says [Yahweh]. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" Jer 31:31-34 (See also Heb 8:8-12).
The day is coming when the house of Jacob will accept the "new covenant" that is provided through the Deliverer - Yahshua the Messiah who is of their ancestry. He will forgive their sins. His laws will be indelibly written in their hearts, and they will delight themselves in Yahweh. This promise unlike the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was specifically for "the house of Israel" (descendants of Jacob) and has a longer term, indeed everlasting significance.
Paul took up this theme in Rom 11:26-27 when he wrote: All Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away [wickedness] from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'. Here Paul was quoting from Isaiah 59:20-21, which states, "The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," says [Yahweh]. "As for Me," says [Yahweh], "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit [that] is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants," says [Yahweh], "from this time and forevermore".
It is clear from many prophecies, including Isaiah’s that Jacob’s lineage had a pivotal role that went far beyond the boundaries of their material heritage, and would bring great blessings to mankind.
The everlasting heritage of Jacob encapsulated in that promise to Jacob that "in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed" Gen 28:14, has been partly fulfilled with the coming of Yahshua our Saviour. In His first advent, Yahshua who was from Judah’s lineage, paid the penalty of death for the sins of the world. In this way the whole earth has been blessed, but the greatest blessings await those who through believing and obeying the Saviour will inherit eternal life, at His Second Coming.
Isaiah foresaw the Messiah’s advents when he declared: [Yahweh] Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel Isa 7:14.
He continued this topic in chapter 9:6-7: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty [El], Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of [Yahweh] of hosts will perform this Isa 9:6, 7.
In fulfilment of this last prophecy Yahshua shall return to earth. First He will reign for one thousand years, during which the earth will be cleansed, the two houses of Israel will be reunited, and many prophecies including those in Isaiah 65 will be fulfilled. Afterwards, the new heaven will come to a new earth, (Rev 21) and Yahweh will "set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" Daniel 2:44. Please read our article 'Understanding the New Heavens and a New Earth'.
Eternal unison and residence with Yahweh is the heritage of Israel and of all people who accept the forgiveness of Yahshua their Saviour and Messiah and keep the commandments of Yahweh. Yahweh’s ultimate commitment is not for places or land but for a people who will tabernacle with Him eternally. For this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance Heb 9:15.
Israel’s blessings to all the families of the earth will not be material blessings, but spiritual. This nation, which in Isaiah’s day could not enjoy their material heritage because they had been displeasing Yahweh, has now become the means whereby the whole world will be granted the opportunity to share in their grander heritage when we tabernacle with Yahweh. It was to this rather than to the land of Canaan that the patriarchs looked most expectantly: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore [Yahweh] is not ashamed to be called their [Elohim], for He has prepared a city for them Heb 11:13-16.
One songwriter wrote, "This world is not our home". The writer of the book of Hebrews commented, "here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" Heb 13:14. Please read our article 'Be not deceived! - Part 3 This world is not your home'.
Relevance to us today
Yahshua came a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel Luke 2:32. He died that all people who accept and obey Him may enter into the eternal heritage of Jacob. In John 1:12, we are told, as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of [Yahweh], to those who believe in His name.
Preaching to people from every nation under heaven on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, "the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as [Yahweh our Elohim] will call" Acts 2:39. Therefore we Gentiles, who at one time were without [the Messiah], being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without [Yahweh] in the world … have been brought near by the blood of [the Messiah] Eph 2:12,13.
Through Yahshua we now have the privilege to be grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree (Rom 11:24), and to enjoy our eternal heritage that has come to us through the lineage of and promises to Jacob. There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope Rom 15:12.
Today those who are keeping Yahweh’s commandments including His Sabbaths and believe in Yahshua our Saviour are already having a preliminary feast on the One who will bring to fulfilment the heritage of Jacob, as He leads us to Zion our eternal heritage, the Promised City of Yahweh.
Like Israel in Isaiah’s day we too can become complacent and arrogant as we go through the motions of obeying Yahweh while our callous hearts are far from Him. We can fail to receive answers to our fasts and prayers if we do not have a right relationship with Yahweh and our fellowmen. Yahshua is not coming to admire whitewashed sepulchres or a people who draw near with their mouths and honor [Him] with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from [Him] Isa 29:13. Like the house of Jacob we too must return to and remain in the old paths of doing what is pleasing to Yahweh, if we will feast on "the [eternal] heritage of Jacob".
It has been said that, "the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed". The heritage of Jacob concealed in the Old Testament has been revealed in the New. There is a Promised Land awaiting the house of Jacob and their adopted heirs. It is the City that none of the patriarchs had entered, but for which they earnestly looked (Heb 11:10). It is not the land of Canaan, but the New Jerusalem, which shall descend from heaven, when Yahweh shall tabernacle with men. It will be flowing not with milk and honey but with the word and glory of Yahweh.
"David My servant [Yahshua, who is of the line of David] shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them … and My servant David shall be their prince forever.
Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; … and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their [Elohim], and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, [Yahweh], sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore" Extracts from Ezek 37:24-28.
Those who enter into this inheritance will truly be of the house of Jacob - the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face Ps 24:6, and will feast on the everlasting "heritage of Jacob".
The ransomed of [Yahweh] shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away Isa 35:10. Halleluyah!
At last the people of Israel would have been delivered; the patriarchs who await us would have obtained their promise; and so too would those Gentiles who are grafted into the inheritance of Israel.
It will be a great day when the true and faithful of all generations will hear the King … say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" Matt 25:34. There, Jacob will meet his extended and blessed family, which will be as innumerable as the "dust of the earth" from east, west, north and south. The promises made by Yahweh in His first appearance to Jacob at Bethel (see Gen 28:13-14), will have been fulfilled, when with Israel we shall enter into our "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that [will] not fade away" 1 Peter 1:4. "What a Day of rejoicing that will be?" Will you be there to feast with Jacob on his heritage?
©Buel Hallpike July 2008 Revised Jan 2010