The Divine Choosing According to the “Eternal Purpose”
1. What question arose as to the offspring of the man to whom God renewed his covenant promise?
JEHOVAH GOD chose to renew to Isaac the covenant promise made to his father Abraham. (Genesis 26:1-5, 23, 24) Although married at forty years of age, Isaac had to become sixty years old before he had children—twins. Would Jehovah, who answered Isaac’s prayer for children, make a choosing with regard to those twin boys?
2. How did Jehovah reveal which one of the twins he would choose?
2 Jehovah indicated his choosing during Rebekah’s pregnancy after she had prayed and asked him about her condition: “Jehovah proceeded to say to her: ‘Two nations are in your belly, and two national groups will be separated from your inward parts; and the one national group will be stronger than the other national group, and the older will serve the younger.’” Esau proved to be the firstborn, and Jacob the second twin. (Genesis 25:20-23) Jehovah thus indicated that he would not make one nation out of these twin sons of Isaac, a two-tribe nation. Rather, there should be two national groups, with the national group from the older twin being weaker and serving the national group of the younger twin. This reversed the natural right of the firstborn son to the preeminence. Thus Jehovah revealed whom he would choose.
3. Did the choosing there depend upon human works or upon the one who does the calling?
3 The Almighty, All-Wise God had a right to do this, according to his purpose for the blessing of all mankind. Regarding this, a first-century Bible commentator wrote: “When Rebekah conceived twins from the one man, Isaac our forefather: for when they had not yet been born nor had practiced anything good or vile, in order that the purpose of God respecting the choosing might continue dependent, not upon works, but upon the One who calls, it was said to her: ‘The older will be the slave of the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated.’”—Romans 9:10-13; quoting also from Malachi 1:2, 3.
4. Why did Jehovah have less love for Esau than for Jacob, even before their birth?
4 Certainly the Almighty, All-Wise God did not make a bad choice. Doubtless He, being able to read the genetic pattern of the twins in Rebekah’s womb, foresaw how the two boys would work out the direction of their lives. So He chose the right twin, even though this one happened to be the younger twin. Despite his choice according to his purpose, Jehovah did not force matters. He did not plan for the older Esau to sell his birthright for a mere bowl of lentil stew to his younger brother Jacob on a critical day of decision. Evidently, however, Jehovah foresaw that the unborn Esau would not have the appreciation and love for spiritual things such as Jacob would have. For this reason he had less love for Esau than for Jacob and made his choice accordingly, even while the twins were yet unborn in their mother’s womb.—Genesis 25:24-34.
5. Did Jehovah plan how Jacob should get the spoken blessing of Isaac, and did He reverse it?
5 Jehovah did not plan the tactics that Jacob and his mother Rebekah used finally with regard to getting the spoken blessing through Isaac, but Jehovah permitted the aged blind Isaac to pronounce the birthright blessing upon Jacob, as Jacob deserved to get it. (Genesis 27:1-30) Jehovah did not let Isaac reverse that blessing, but, when Jacob was fleeing from the murderous wrath of his twin brother Esau, God confirmed Isaac’s blessing upon Jacob. This upheld God’s choice of Jacob before his birth. How so?
6. How was God’s choice of Jacob upheld in the dream that Jacob had of the ladder used by angels?
6 At the place called Bethel in the Promised Land, the fugitive Jacob “began to dream, and, look! there was a ladder stationed upon the earth and its top reaching up to the heavens; and, look! there were God’s angels ascending and descending on it. And, look! there was Jehovah stationed above it, and he proceeded to say: ‘I am Jehovah the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land upon which you are lying, to you I am going to give it and to your seed. And your seed will certainly become like the dust particles of the earth, and you will certainly spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and by means of you and by means of your seed all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves. And here I am with you and I will keep you in all the way you are going and I will return you to this ground, because I am not going to leave you until I have actually done what I have spoken to you.’”—Genesis 28:12-15.
7, 8. (a) This divine statement meant what for Messiah’s line of descent? (b) Unlike Esau, Jacob distinguished himself for whose worship?
7 According to this irreversible statement of the God who does not lie, the Abrahamic Promise set forth in Genesis 12:1-7 was to be carried out by God through Jacob’s descendants or seed.
8 This meant that the Messiah, the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman,” was to come through Jacob’s line of descent. That is why we specialize on following the history of Jacob’s descendants rather than on the history of the nations and the families of the ground who are yet to be blessed by the Messianic “seed.” Also, the God of Abraham and Isaac came to be called the “God of Jacob.” This cannot be said for Esau (or, Edom), who did not distinguish himself in the worship of Jehovah and whose descendants became enemies of the worshipers of Jehovah. The idol Qos was the ‘god of Edom.’ (2 Chronicles 25:14; Ezekiel, chapter 35 thirty-five) The temple built later on at Jerusalem came to be called “the house of the God of Jacob.” (Isaiah 2:3) As an example for us now in these troublous days, the inspired psalmist says: “Jehovah of armies is with us; the God of Jacob is a secure height for us.”—Psalm 46:11.
CHOICE OF THE ROYAL TRIBE
9. (a) Why are Jacob’s descendants called Israelites? (b) At what place did Jacob become father to his twelfth son?
9 While away for twenty years in Paddan-aram in the Mesopotamian valley, Jacob married into the family relationship approved by his father Isaac and became the father of eleven sons. Then God told him to return to the Promised Land, from which he had fled. (Genesis 31:3) It was while Jacob was on his return journey that he was given the surname Israel. God’s angel said to him: “Your name will no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have contended with God and with men so that you at last prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28) Thereafter Jacob’s descendants were called Israelites. (Exodus 17:11) Later, when Jacob or Israel was on his way back from a revisit to Bethel, where he had had the ladder dream, he became father to his twelfth son, Benjamin. But at the delivery of this her second son, Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died. As recorded at Genesis 35:19, “thus Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is to say, Bethlehem.”
10. During Jacob’s further stay in the Promised Land, what disqualifications did Reuben come under?
10 After Jacob’s return to the Promised Land in 1761 B.C.E., he continued living there as an alien resident for thirty-three years. During that time a number of significant things happened, but not according to any plan by God. Jacob’s father, Isaac, died at the age of one hundred and eighty years. (Genesis 35:27-29) Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, sexually violated his father’s concubine, Bilhah the maidservant of Rachel. (Genesis 35:22) This disqualified Reuben from enjoying the right of firstborn to his father Jacob and also from having the royal Messiah come through his line of descent. This certainly was not planned by Jehovah God, for He is no party to such incestuous fornication.—Genesis 49:1-4.
11, 12. (a) How did Simeon and Levi disqualify themselves from any opportunity as to the Messianic line? (b) What must God now do as to the choosing?
11 Prior to Rachel’s death and to Reuben’s act of shocking immorality, Jacob’s daughter Dinah was sexually violated by an inhabitant of the Promised Land, namely, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, who lived in the city of Shechem. There was great indignation among Jacob’s sons because of this “disgraceful folly against Israel.” So, when the male inhabitants of Shechem were incapacitated because of their compliance with the requirement of circumcision, Jacob’s second son Simeon and his third son Levi took swords and massacred all such unsuspecting male Shechemites, after which the city was plundered.
12 Jacob as God’s prophet disapproved of this violence. He told Simeon and Levi that they had thereby made him a “stench to the inhabitants of the land” and had exposed him and his household to annihilation by the more numerous peoples of the land. (Genesis 34:1-30) Because of such cruel slaughter in anger and fury, Simeon and Levi disqualified themselves of either one of them having his line of descent lead down to the Messianic “seed.” So this honorable privilege must now go to some other son aside from Simeon and Levi and the natural firstborn son Reuben. (Genesis 49:5-7) Certainly Jehovah God had not planned matters that way. He now had to adapt himself to the new set of circumstances. His choice among the yet remaining sons of Jacob He would yet indicate by means of his prophet, Jacob or Israel.
13, 14. How did Jacob and his household come to move down into Egypt to be with Joseph there?
13 The firstborn son of Jacob’s beloved second wife, Rachel, was the eleventh son of the family, namely, Joseph. Jacob displayed special affection for this son of his old age. For this reason Joseph’s half brothers became jealous of him. Without the knowledge of their father, they managed to sell Joseph to traveling merchants who were on their way down to Egypt. They led Jacob their father to believe that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.
14 Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, but by the favor of the God whom he faithfully worshiped and obeyed he was raised to be food administrator and prime minister of Egypt under Pharaoh. In the year 1728 B.C.E. Joseph became reconciled with his repentant half brothers, who had come down to Egypt for food supplies during the world famine. Thereafter, by Joseph’s arrangements, his father Jacob or Israel moved with all his household down to Egypt and settled in what was called the Land of Goshen. There Jacob continued to live for seventeen years.—Genesis, chapters 37-47.
15, 16. Jacob then entered Egypt as still heir of what, and how is this called to attention in Psalm 105:7-15?
15 It was at God’s instructions that Jacob left the Promised Land and went down to Egypt at Joseph’s invitation. (Genesis 46:1-4) He went down there as still the heir of the Abrahamic Promise and the one to pass it on. Psalm 105:7-15 points to this fact and says:
16 “He is Jehovah our God. His judicial decisions are in all the earth. He has remembered his covenant even to time indefinite, the word that he commanded, to a thousand generations, which covenant he concluded with Abraham, and his sworn statement to Isaac, and which statement he kept standing as a regulation even to Jacob, as an indefinitely lasting covenant even to Israel, saying: ‘To you I shall give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance.’ This was when they happened to be few in number, yes, very few, and alien residents in it. And they kept walking about from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people. He did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones [in Hebrew the plural number of ma·shiʹahh, or messiahs], and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”—Marginal reading.
17. Why did Jehovah speak of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being “prophets” and as being his “anointed ones”?
17 Thus Jehovah called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob his prophets, and this they really were. (Genesis 20:7) A prophet could be spoken of as being anointed because of being designated and appointed, even without the pouring of official oil upon him. (1 Kings 19:16, 19; 2 Kings 2:14) Likewise, although Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not anointed with oil in the way that Jacob anointed the pillar at the place called Bethel, they were properly called “anointed ones” because of Jehovah’s action toward them. (Genesis 28:18, 19; 31:13) The fact that Jehovah called them “my anointed ones” indicates that he appointed them, he chose them. Moffatt’s Bible translation renders Psalm 105:15: “Never touch my chosen, never harm my prophets.” (Also 1 Chronicles 16:22) Jehovah chooses whom he wants to; there is a purpose behind his choice.
18. Accordingly, the nation that was to come through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also how designated, and why appropriately so?
18 Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Jehovah’s “messiahs,” and it is in harmony with this that the Messianic nation came through them. The Holy Scriptures speak of this chosen nation as Jehovah’s “messiah” or “anointed one.” In Psalm 28:8, 9, the psalmist David says: “Jehovah is a strength to his people, and he is a stronghold of the grand salvation of his anointed one [Hebrew: ma·shiʹahh]. Do save your people, and bless your inheritance; and shepherd them and carry them to time indefinite.” Later, the prophet Habakkuk said to Jehovah in prayer: “You went forth for the salvation of your people, to save your anointed one [ma·shiʹahh].” (Habakkuk 3:13) It was in line with this that, through this “anointed” people or nation, there was to come in God’s appointed time the real Messiah, the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman.”—Genesis 3:15.
19. Being heads of twelve tribes, the sons of Jacob were called what?
19 It was down in Egypt that Jacob’s descendants grew to be a numerous people, ready for nationhood. It was concerning the time that Jacob was on his deathbed (in 1711 B.C.E.) and gave his farewell words to his sons that it was said: “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them when he was blessing them. He blessed them each one according to his own blessing.” (Genesis 49:28) By becoming each one the head of a tribe, these twelve sons of Jacob were called “patriarchs,” or ‘heads of the fathers.’ As a speaker before the Jerusalem Sanhedrin once said: “He then gave him the covenant of circumcision, and so, after Isaac was born, he circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs. The patriarchs out of jealousy sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt, but God was with him.” (Acts 7:8, 9, New English Bible) Properly, the Greek-speaking Jews spoke of “Abraham the patriarch,” and also of “the patriarch David.”—Hebrews 7:4; Acts 2:29, NEB.
20. Was a religious patriarchate thus set up in Israel?
20 This does not mean, however, that a religious patriarchate was set up among Jacob’s descendants there in Egypt. After Jacob’s death in the land of Goshen, Joseph as the prime minister of Egypt for Pharaoh did not set himself up as the patriarchal head of the “twelve tribes of Israel,” even though his father’s final blessing upon him indicated that the right of firstborn had been transferred to Joseph.—Genesis 49:22-26; 50:15-26.
21. (a) Jacob indicated that the right of firstborn was now transferred to whom? (b) Choice of the head one of the line leading to the Messianic king depended upon whom?
21 By his prophetic blessings upon his twelve sons the patriarch Jacob disclosed more than that the birthright or right of the firstborn had been transferred from Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son by his first wife Leah, to Joseph, the firstborn son of his second wife Rachel. (Genesis 29:21-32) Before selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt, his half brothers resented the thought that he might become king over them. (Genesis 37:8) But long previous to this, when God gave to the patriarch Abraham the covenant of circumcision, God foretold that kings would come out of Abraham, and this by means of his wife Sarah, whose name God then changed from Sarai to Sarah, meaning “Princess.” (Genesis 17:16) Also, when God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, he promised that kings would come out of Jacob. (Genesis 35:10, 11) However, the right of the firstborn son of the family did not automatically carry with it the right and honor to be the ancestor to the line of kings that would lead up to the Messianic King, the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman.” This vital matter depended upon God’s choice. He caused Jacob to point out which son would be ancestor to such King.
22. In a blessing, over which son did Jacob refer to a “scepter” and a “commander’s staff”?
22 After expressing his disapproval of Reuben, Simeon and Levi, the dying Jacob said with reference to his fourth son by his first wife Leah: “As for you, Judah, your brothers will laud you. Your hand will be on the back of the neck of your enemies. The sons of your father will prostrate themselves to you. A lion cub Judah is. From the prey, my son, you will certainly go up. He bowed down, he stretched himself out like a lion and, like a lion, who dares rouse him? The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.”—Genesis 49:8-10.
23. All those features, scepter, commander’s staff, obedience of the peoples, comparison with a lion, bespeak what for Judah?
23 Let us note Jacob’s comparison of Judah with a lion. Micah 5:8 likens a lion to an animal king of the forest. Ezekiel 19:1-9 likens the kings of the kingdom of Judah to lions. So Jacob’s comparison of Judah with a lion goes well with the fact that the scepter was not to “turn aside from Judah,” this implying that Judah already had the scepter and would not lose it or be deprived of it. That this was the scepter of kingship is bolstered up by the fact that the scepter was linked with the “commander’s staff,” which also was not to turn away from Judah before Shiloh would come. Furthermore, to Judah, as represented by this Shiloh, “the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Genesis 49:10) All these features about Judah bespeak royalty!
24, 25. (a) What does the name Shiloh mean, and to whom does it apply? (b) Why will the royal scepter not have to turn aside from Judah?
24 The name Shiloh is understood to mean “The One Whose It Is.” The ancient Latin Vulgate, which was translated from the original Hebrew text of the day, reads: “Until he comes who is to be sent.”
25 The coming of this Shiloh (“The One Whose It Is”) refers to the same one whose coming is foretold in the words of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah to the last Judean king of Jerusalem: “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” (Ezekiel 21:27) This undoubtedly refers to the coming of the Messianic King, the “seed” of God’s figurative “woman,” for with his coming there is no need of a further succession of kings after him. Then the kingdom in the tribe of Judah reaches its culmination and remains forever in the hands of Shiloh. This is the Messianic King that will sit at Jehovah’s right hand in the heavens and will be a king like Melchizedek, to whom the patriarch Abraham paid the tithes of the spoils of victory. (Psalm 110:1-4) Thus the royal scepter would not turn aside from Judah.
26. (a) How does 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2 show right of firstborn to be one thing and royal connections another? (b) Despite unplanned developments, Jehovah was free and able to do what?
26 That the right of the firstborn son of the family was one thing and the assignment of royal leadership was another thing, and that God through the dying patriarch Jacob assigned the royal leadership to Judah, is plainly stated in Scripture. In 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2 we read concerning the sons of Jacob: “And the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—for he was the firstborn; but for his profaning the lounge of his father his right as firstborn was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he [Reuben] was not to be enrolled genealogically for the right of the firstborn. For Judah himself proved to be superior among his brothers, and the one for leader was from him [and the prince descended from him (Leeser); and of him came he that is the prince (Jewish Publication Society)]; but the right as firstborn was Joseph’s.” We cannot here say that the Almighty, All-Wise God planned it this way, for he did not induce the misdeeds of Reuben, Simeon and Levi and the consequences thereof. Rather, according to the way that the unplanned developments worked out he was free to make choice of Judah. Regardless of what happened he was able to stick to his original purpose and to work it out without change.
27, 28. (a) Upon what nation, then, shall we keep our eyes trained, and upon which part thereof in particular? (b) By acting upon the evidence that God furnishes, what benefits shall we enjoy?
27 God’s choices and movements serve as a sure guide for us as we consider His “eternal purpose” that he formed in connection with the Anointed One, the Messiah. From the prophetic words that he inspired the dying patriarch Jacob to pronounce over Judah, we know the course for us to follow. We must keep our eyes trained, not merely upon the twelve tribes of Israel in general, but upon the tribe of Judah in particular because of its direct relationship with Jehovah’s Messiah, the “seed” of His heavenly “woman.” More and more evidence is accumulating to aid us to identify this Messianic King with whom God’s “eternal purpose” is wrapped up.
28 Acting upon the evidence as the Sovereign Lord Jehovah furnishes it to us, we shall avoid becoming followers of a disappointing false Messiah. We shall, instead, experience the joy of recognizing the true Messiah from God and following the one by means of whom all the nations of the earth will procure an eternal blessing.