THE COMPASSIONATE JACOB
Jacob began to turn into a compassionate person. When his sons were feeding the flock away from home, he sent Joseph to inquire after them. Here we see that he was an elderly person who loved and cared for the young ones. He was afraid that his sons might get into mischief, and he sent Joseph to inquire after their welfare. He never expected that Joseph would be sold or that his sons would deceive him by showing him Joseph’s many-colored coat dipped in blood. Genesis 37:33 says, "And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces." What a great sorrow this was for an old man to repeat, "Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces." The next verses say, "And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him" (vv. 34-35). Step by step God took everything away from Jacob; step by step Jacob was stripped. Even Joseph was taken from him. The record in the latter part of Genesis 37 is truly sad and sorrowful. Once again Jacob was disciplined and tried in God’s hand. God was making Jacob a person full of compassion and sympathy for others.
THE TENDER JACOB
Later, Joseph was made lord over Pharaoh’s house and governor over all the land of Egypt. Jacob, on the other hand, was facing famine in the land of Canaan. When Jacob was faced with this calamity, he sent his sons to buy corn in Egypt. Benjamin, his youngest son, did not go. While his sons were buying food in Egypt, Joseph recognized them. Joseph purposely detained Simeon. He would release him on the condition that they bring Benjamin to him. When the sons returned home, they told Jacob all that had befallen them, and Jacob said to them, "Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me" (Gen. 42:36). Here we see a tender Jacob, not the Jacob of his former days. Here was a man who lived under God’s hand, whose natural life disappeared day by day. Before God he was transformed into a tender and loving person.
When the corn that had been brought from Egypt was eaten, they could go and buy food only according to the condition laid out by the governor in Egypt: They had to bring Benjamin with them. Jacob had no other way but to let his most treasured, youngest son go. At this point the Bible records, "And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so..." (Gen. 43:11). Here the Bible calls his name Israel. The phrase "if it must be so" indicates that he was now a tender person; he was no longer a stubborn person. Formerly, he did whatever he wished, but no longer. His words, "if it must be so now, do this," indicate that Jacob was now softened and was able to listen to others. "Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts and almonds." The aged man was now full of kindness. "And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight" (v. 12). He wanted to return the money that was taken before. This was unlike his past when he took the possessions of others as his own. "Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man" (v. 13). He agreed to let Benjamin go, saying, "And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved" (v. 14). This Jacob was entirely different from the former Jacob. God was taking away his most treasured son; his youngest son, Benjamin, had to leave him! In spite of all his life’s labor, he had nothing left. This was God’s stripping. He said, "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." He seemed to be saying, "I only have one desire: May God Almighty, the God I knew at Bethel, give you mercy before that man, and deliver your other brother and Benjamin home." Brothers and sisters, if you read Jacob’s history as an outsider, you may not understand him, but if you put yourself in Jacob’s situation and read his history, you will realize what kind of person Jacob was by this time. Formerly he was a capable, cunning, and supplanting person, but now he had been transformed into a soft, tender, and loving person. How much work must God have done on him!
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)