All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own descendants, not including Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. 27And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.Genesis 46:26-27
After Babel, God chose Abram from among the nations and entered into an everlasting covenant with him. God’s covenant involves a promise for a chosen family, a holy nation, a land, and ultimately a Son — a King — to bless all the families of the earth and save mankind. This covenant is predicated on and perpetuated by God’s grace and it is actuated and applied through our faith in Messiah and God’s holy word. As it is written, from first to last, the righteous shall live by faith.
God gave Abraham a miracle son of promise, Isaac — one of the first to typify the resurrection of Jesus Christ [see Genesis 22 the “AKEDAH“]. The LORD then extended His covenant to Isaac’s son, Jacob, changing his name to Israel. After initiating a covenant relationship with the patriarchs, the LORD God continued His redemptive work through Israel the family. By the time Jacob and His 12 sons sojourned to Egypt during the famine in the days of Joseph, they constituted a family — 70 persons in all.
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.2And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” 3Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. 4I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.“Genesis 46:1-4
Israel — the Family of God
The LORD is a personal God, a relational God. He is our Father, our Redeemer, our Comforter and Healer. He desires deep heartfelt devotion and covenant communion with His people. God has chosen a family for Himself to reflect His glory and nature to the world. From Adam to Noah — from the Garden to the flood — the LORD worked through the nuclear family to accomplish His purposes. As image bearers of the Creator and King of the universe, mankind has been purposed to be God’s kingdom representatives on the earth.
God’s covenant family always has consisted of loyal and believing sons and daughters and servants and saints, who desire to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Even God — having revealed Himself through the infinitely complex dynamics of His own triune nature — eternally exists in perpetual love and communion as Father, Son and Spirit. The LORD is One as a unity — perfect in power and purpose and will, yet at the same time God is inherently diverse within Himself, existing in three distinct persons and expressing His manifold wisdom in all creation. Just as one family consists of many members, God consists of three distinct, yet united, personalities.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:14-19
As I said, the Most Hight is a God of relationship. He is the Head of the household and the Father of the family. He has chosen to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession and that people will forever be known as Israel.
Israel — the Household of God
Jacob was blessed with 12 sons and one daughter. The sons of Israel are the princes or tribal heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 sons of Israel represent God’s eternal family, and every believer in the God of Israel is automatically Incorporated into one of the 12 tribes. We see this reality expressed in the Heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to earth during the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed.Revelation 21:10-12
The Scriptures are replete with language depicting God’s covenant people as a household or family. His ultimate promise is to be our God and we HIs people.
And like any human family, Israel was to some degree both dysfunctional and disobedient, marred by scandal and moral failure. Jacob schemed his father-in-law Laban and acquired much of his wealth. Sibling rivalry often raged between Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel. When Jacob showed favoritism to Rachel’s son Joseph, the rest of his brothers betrayed him and sold him as a slave into Egypt. Even Judah was deceived by his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, and conceived an illegitimate child through her.
Needless to say, the family of Israel was far from perfect, which consistently reminded them of their need for a sinless Savior and righteous Redeemer. The sons of Israel needed an elder brother to restore them to the God of their fathers, and Israel looked forward in faith to the day Messiah would come. In the same way, God’s people today look back in faith upon the cross and empty tomb of Christ, and to all who receive Him and believe in His name God gives the right to be called the children of God.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.Ephesians 2:12-13, 18-20
It is Jesus Christ who came in the flesh to bring many sons to glory, leading us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers …Hebrews 2:9-12
Israel — the 12 Tribes of God
A tribe is a related group of people with a common ancestor. When Israel went down to Egypt as 70 persons in all, there were 12 tribes in one family. Think of it like an extended family with uncles and cousins and grandchildren and nephews. Israel is the tribe of the One True God, and Jesus Himself reminds us that the tribes of Israel have an eternal destiny in the kingdom of God and the regeneration of all things.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the regeneration of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.Matthew 19:28-29
From patriarch to family to the 12 tribes, Israel has always been God’s chosen people for His own possession out of all the nations of the earth. Next time I will expand my study of Israel to it’s season of captivity and it’s birth as God’s holy nation.