Why do I write about the parallels between Jesus and Old Testament characters? I believe it is important to understand the strong links between the Old and New Testaments. Repeated themes of Jesus’s attitudes, life, death and resurrection are deeply embedded on every page of the Old Testament. By discovering these links, it will increase your faith and encourage you to believe the Bible is truly God’s Word. As you follow the series Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols and Ponderings, I encourage you to consider the age of these ancient texts, the span of years between the Old and New Testament writers, the number of repeated prophecies of the coming Messiah and the accurate foretelling of the life of Christ in the Old Testament.
As I researched this topic across the web, I began to realize there are many parallels between Jacob and Jesus, and it would be an extremely long blog entry if I attempted to cover all of them. Below are some of the most interesting parallels from the story of Jacob:
Parallel 1: The Highly Favored and Beloved Son:
- If you know the story of Jacob, you may be wondering how he could be called a “type” of Christ. After all, he stole his brother’s birthright by tricking his father. He was stubborn and prone to strife. However, God loved and poured His favor upon Jacob before He was born (Psalms 135:4; Isaiah 41:8; Romans 9:10-13). Throughout the Old Testament, ancient Israel’s relationship with God consisted of love, struggle, waywardness and reconciliation. God’s people weren’t perfect, yet He called them His “chosen” people anyway. I love this parallel because it gives me, who is very imperfect at times, hope. How great is the grace and mercy of God on us!
- God favored and loved His Son Jesus before the world was formed (John 17:24).
Parallel 2: Stranger in a Strange Land
- After Jacob stole his Esau’s birthright, his brother wanted to kill him. As a result, Jacob fled his home to live among strangers in a far away land, called Paddan-aram, for twenty years. Before returning to his homeland, he built his family, his wealth and riches (Genesis 28:2-4).
- Christ left His heavenly Father’s side to become a man upon this earth. As a result, he lived among a world that didn’t understand. His own people wanted to kill Him (Philippians 2:7). Jesus came from heavenly places to share His wealth and glory of the Kingdom with us.
Symbolism: Jacob’s Ladder
- Jacob has a dream in which he saw many angels going up and down a ladder that stretched between the heavens and the earth. Theologians believe the ladder represents Jesus who bridges the gap between heaven and this world through his death and resurrection for our sins. Revelation states the ladder will be complete when Jesus returns to His Bride (the Church) (John 1:51; Revelation 21 and 22).
Parallel 3: The Bride
- Jacob worked for many years for his uncle to make Rachel his bride (Genesis 29:18).
- Christ is the bridegroom of the Church. He came to this earth to die for the love of His bride, the Church. God and His angels are constantly working on our behalf until Christ returns (John 5:17).
Parallel 4: The Elder and The Younger Sisters
- Jacob married two wives. Leah was the elder sister and Rachel, the younger. Jacob’s family line continued through both wives and were united together in marriage. Their families eventual journeyed to Canaan, the promised land.
- Christ (represents Jacob) is the link between the Old Testament (Leah: Israel/Hebrew people) and the New Testament (Rachel: Jews united with gentiles/also known as the “Bride of Christ”). Jesus was a descendent of Leah because He came from the Tribe of Judah. The gentiles, through Christ, are adopted into the family of God’s chosen people. As God’s children, we are on a journey to the heavenly Canaan (Ephesians 2:14).
Parallel 5: Israel Prevails
- God gave Jacob the name “Israel” after they wrestled outside of Jacob’s camp. The Lord gave him this name after saying he “wrestled with God and man, and prevailed” (Genesis 32:24-28).
- During the Second Coming, Jesus will return to earth to build the New Jerusalem to signify Israel ultimately prevailing upon the earth (Revelation 21:2).
Parallel 6: The Patriarchs
- Jacob became the father of the 12 tribes (descendants from his 12 children) of the Hebrew people.
- In contrast, Christ’s disciples became the spiritual fathers.
Parallel 7: The House of Levi and Priesthood
- The Tribe of Levi (a tribe of priests) came from Jacob’s family line. The Levites were a class of priests, including high priests. Those who were not priests carried out other religious or political responsibilities. The High Priest was responsible for offering a sacrifice to atone for the sin of the Hebrew people (Leviticus 16).
- Jesus was the High Priest. He offered himself as a sacrifice to permanently atone for the sins of humanity (Hebrews 10:21-22; Revelation 1:6).
Resources and Other Interesting Sites
Below is a list of sites I came across during my research. If you are interested in discovering more parallels to Jesus (there are many), here are great sites to help you start:
- Coachlight Bible Study – Jacob as a Type by ilovethewordofgod.com
- Devotion on Jacob as a Type of Christ by the Anglican Orthodox Church Worldwide Communion
- Jacob a Type of Jesus’ Two Advents by Kermit Zarley
- Jacob as a Type of Christ by St. Mary and St. Antonious Coptic Orthodox Church