Genesis 32:28 records the conclusion of the wrestling match between Jacob and the angel of the LORD. The angel tells Jacob his name will “no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and you have overcome.” The name Israel means he struggles with God and the previous two blog entries demonstrated the history of the nation of Israel struggling in their relationship with God, and with men. Although hermeneutically the text of Genesis 32:28 tells us that Jacob himself did overcome the battle with the angel of the LORD, I do not think it is farfetched to understand this verse as a prophetic utterance about the future of Israel.
Historically Israel has struggled greatly, and this has been going on for millennia. Though there have been times of great hope, faith, and survival, there have also been times of great hopelessness, faithlessness, and oppression. Today Israel is threatened repeatedly by Iran. A nation who openly professes they would like to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth. The peace and security of Israel is a matter which will not be resolved anytime soon, nor by any current political arrangements. Whatever kind of peace arrangements accomplished through modern day politicians will be temporary. This is not to mitigate the importance of striving for peace, for peace benefits many, but rather to understand that the real program for long and lasting peace for Israel and its neighbors is one that will be accomplished by the word and hand of the Lord. The question becomes how will Israel overcome?
Where this promise began to find its fulfillment was in King David. David was the first king of Israel to be from the line of Judah. Saul, who was Israel’s first king, was from the tribe of Benjamin. 1Samuel 17:12 tell us David was the son of Jesse, “who was from Bethlehem in Judah.” Bethlehem is the city, Judah the regional territory. After David became king, God made a covenant with him that he would establish David’s kingdom as an everlasting kingdom. (See 2 Samuel 7: 12-16)
Nearly two hundred years after David’s reign ended, the nation of Israel had split into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was Israel, and Judah was the southern kingdom. During this time, around 742-740 B.C. God raised up the prophets Isaiah and Micah to foretell what would become of his people Judah, and the covenant he made with David.
Although these prophets prophesied that Judah would be punished and exiled for their sins committed against God, they would not be destroyed. Nearly 156 years before Judah was carried off in the Babylonian exile, Micah and Isaiah spoke of a future hope.
Micah 4:1-8 describes this future hope being fulfilled in the “last days.” He writes that many nations will come to Jerusalem seeking to be taught, and submitting to the Lord’s rule. The result of this will be peace among the nations. In verse eight Micah writes that Israel will be restored: “the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:2-4 conveys a very similar message to Micah 4:1-8. The closely related message between the two prophets is like two witnesses each testifying to the truth of what they were told.
Micah 5:2-4 tells us the king of this coming kingdom would again come from Bethlehem; that he would bring security to his people, and his rule would reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah describes this reign coming directly from the line of David. Isaiah makes an early reference to David in Isaiah 4:2 when he writes, “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.” How we can know Isaiah is referring to a rule from the line of David is clarified in Isaiah 11.
Isaiah 11:1 says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Furthermore, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10)
The prophet Jeremiah, who was the predecessor of Micah and Isaiah, also wrote of the rule of the coming king from the line of David. The words in Jeremiah 23:5-6, and 33:15-16 virtually repeat themselves. They are the words of the LORD speaking to Jeremiah. “The days are coming” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
So who is this king who will deliver and restore Israel to a place of prominence, and bring peace to the nations? Jesus’ disciples and other New Testament writers assure us it is Jesus himself who will bring this about. Matthew wrote the gospel of Matthew and records the lineage of Jesus being from the line of David. Luke also records Jesus as being the rightful heir to the Davidic throne when he records the visit of the angel to Mary. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
The writer of Hebrews confirms this as well in Hebrews 1:8, and Paul in Romans 15:12 confirms Jesus as the “Root of Jesse”. Finally Jesus’ disciple John, who wrote the book of Revelation gives confirmation to Jesus coming to restore this kingdom. But it is not John’s words or opinion here, but Jesus himself, when he gives John his revelation of himself. After all, the book is not the revelation of John, but of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:1-2) Language referring to Christ as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, “the Root of David”, and the “Offspring of David” can be found in Revelation 5:5 and 22:16.
During the time of Isaiah, Micah, and Jeremiah, Judah had a king on the Davidic throne until the time of the Babylonian exile. Those who returned from Babylon 70 years later, were unable to establish a sovereign nation as they were under the watch of the Persian Empire. The future fulfillment of Genesis 32: 28 lies in Jesus alone, not only for spiritual reasons, but national reasons as well.