THE LORD APPEARS TO ISAAC
The Hebrew word har (ra’ah), rendered “appeared,” means to gaze upon, show or behold. As we noted last week, the LORD appeared to Abraham—that is, he had seen the LORD. And yet, since “…no one has seen God (the Father) at any time…” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12; cf. John 6:46), we must conclude that it was not the Father, but the Son who spoke to and appeared to him. So it was with Isaac.
The first appearance to Isaac is recorded in Genesis 26:2. It simply says that God appeared to him, telling him to dwell in the land which was promised to his father, and would belong to his descendants. After much difficulty with Abimelech and the Philistines, Isaac acknowledged that the LORD had provided room for them in the land. That night, we’re told:
“…the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of
your father Abraham, do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and
multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.’ So he built
an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his
tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Genesis 26:24-25)
Neither text gives much detail, except to say that the LORD appeared to Isaac. Nonetheless, these are appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
As Jacob travelled toward Haran, he stopped at Luz along the way. There, he had a dream. In his dream, he saw a ladder between the earth and heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. The LORD stood above the ladder, introduced Himself to Jacob, and shared the same promise with him that had been given to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 28:12-13). Jacob called the place Bethel, literally, ‘house of God.’
Was it the pre-incarnate Christ who was at the top of the ladder? The text is not clear, but in John 1, Jesus indicated to Nathanael that while He was upon the earth, He was the ladder which Jacob had seen (see text on next page).
ANOTHER DREAM FOR JACOB
After spending 20 years in Haran, the LORD came to Jacob in a dream. Jacob, as he spoke with his wives about it said,
…the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said,
‘Here I am.’ (Genesis 31:11)
It is interesting that as Jacob referred to the One who appeared to him, he knew that it was “the Angel of God” (a.k.a, the Angel of the LORD). We have noted previously that the Angel of the LORD is the Messiah, the pre-incarnate Christ.
He identified Himself to Jacob as the One who had appeared to him at Luz (a.k.a. Bethel), ‘I am the God of Bethel…” (Genesis 31:13)
JACOB WRESTLES THE LORD
As Jacob returned to his own land with his family, having sent them all ahead, he was left alone. Initially, we are told that he wrestled with a ‘Man’ until daybreak. Jacob knew who it was that he was wrestling with, for he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ (Genesis 32:26) and so the response came,
Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled
with God and with men, and have prevailed. (Genesis 32:28)
Jacob called the name of that place Peniel, stating, ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). He was not mistaken, he had seen God—it was the pre-incarnate Christ. In fact, it seems likely that Jesus refers to this situation in John 1:47-51:
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an
Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do
You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you,
when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered and
said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’
Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under
the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And
He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven
open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of
Man.’ (John 1:47-51)
ONE FINAL APPEARANCE
After Simeon and Levi killed all the males in the city of Shechem and plundered their goods, Jacob feared for his households. At this point, God spoke to Jacob, telling him to go to Bethel, and there he was to “make an altar there to God, who appeared to you” (Genesis 35:1).
When he arrived at Bethel, he built an altar “…because there God appeared to him…” (Genesis 35:7).
Once more, God appeared to Jacob and blessed him (Genesis 35:9). He reaffirmed the name change, no longer was he Jacob, but now would be called Israel. The promises were stated to Jacob,
I am God Almighty. 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. (Genesis 35:11-12)
Since we’re told that “God went up from him to the place where He talked with him” (Genesis 35:13), it should be understood that God had come down (ie. appeared) to him.
The Lord Jesus appeared to Isaac twice that is recorded in Scripture.
To Jacob, the pre-incarnate Christ appeared at least four times. Jacob acknowledged that he had seen God. Indeed, he did – it was the Christ.
Though we find it stated throughout Joseph’s life that God was with him. It is never recorded that God appeared to him.