Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 11

The faith of Jacob

Hebrews 11:21

When Jacob was a young man, he wanted very much to receive the benefit of God’s promises. But he did not know how to do it. So he tried to buy it (Genesis 25:31). After that, he lied and he cheated (Genesis 27:19). He used every effort – but human effort is not the correct way to gain the benefit of God’s promises.

Jacob had to learn the correct way. We receive the benefit of God’s promises when we accept them by faith (active belief and trust in God).

As Jacob became older, he also became wiser. Hebrews 11:21 describes him near to the end of his life. He holds his staff (stick), which shows his authority as head of his family. He is a holy man, who gives honour to God. And he is living by faith.

Jacob did not need to appoint Joseph as leader of the family, because Joseph was already their leader. But Jacob did bless both his own sons, and Joseph’s sons. And like his father Isaac, he spoke words from God about their families’ future as he blessed them.

As a young man, Jacob did not understand that Isaac was speaking those words by faith. So Jacob thought that he had to cheat in order to get better promises for himself. But as an older man, Jacob understood that he must act by faith to bless his family.

So, as he blessed Joseph’s two sons, Jacob placed his right hand on the head of Joseph’s younger son. He did it to show that God’s promises to that son were greater.

When Joseph saw it, he tried to move his father’s hand. Joseph wanted the older boy to receive the greater promises.

But Jacob insisted that he had not made a mistake. Unlike his father Isaac, Jacob knew whom he was blessing. By faith, he trusted God to give him the right promises for each son.

Jacob declared that he was adopting those two sons. In other words, the family should consider them as if they were Jacob’s own sons. The families of both sons would become very great in Israel.

The large families that came from Jacob’s sons are called ‘the tribes of Israel’. And among the tribes of Israel are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s sons.

Next part: The bones of Joseph (Hebrews 11:22)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.