The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by Watchman Nee


Beginning from Genesis 37 Jacob withdrew; he retired. Before this time Jacob was active from morning until evening. As soon as he was finished with one matter, he would become involved in another matter. Jacob typified the strength of the flesh. No one could stop Jacob from his activity or his speaking. At Peniel God touched him. At Bethel God perfected him. At Hebron Jacob withdrew to the background. Beginning from chapter thirty-seven, he only occasionally came forward to speak a few words or to take care of something. Most of the time he retreated to the background. He became quiet.

If we know Jacob, we will realize that his natural energy would not allow him to rest. Some Christians are like this. If you ask them to rest for a couple of days, they simply cannot do it. They do not know how to stop. However, Jacob was quiet in his later years. He was no longer active in his natural life. This was the fruit of the Spirit in Jacob. This does not mean that after our natural life has been dealt with, we will become a lazy person; nor does it mean that a person who seldom endeavors is necessarily one that dwells in Hebron. If we think that being spiritual is doing very little or even doing nothing, we are very wrong. When we say that Jacob was quiet, we mean that Jacob’s natural energy stopped. After Jacob returned to his father’s house to dwell in Hebron, he became quiet and retreated. The work of the Spirit prevailed in Jacob.

The most outstanding characteristic of a person whose flesh has been dealt with by God is the cessation of fleshly activities. Even an energetic person such as Jacob can become quiet and inactive. There is nothing to marvel at when a lazy person retreats to the background. The Lord may deal with such a person by pushing him to the foreground. However, Jacob was a person who was always active, always asserting himself in the forefront. His retreat to the background was truly the result of God’s work on him.

We know that Jacob was a crafty, cunning, and scheming person. This kind of person does not usually have any concern for others. It is difficult to find a scheming person who truly loves others. A person who always plots against others has only one goal—to profit at the expense of others. He will do whatever profits him and not do anything that does not profit him. He can never sympathize with others or be considerate of others. He can never love others. This was Jacob. Jacob’s nature was one that only cared for himself. He did not know how to love others. Even his love for Rachel was a selfish love. Yet God disciplined him. After he left his father’s house, he endured much suffering and encountered many difficulties. When he returned to his father’s house, his loved ones passed away one by one. His daughter, Dinah, was defiled, and his eldest son, Reuben, defiled his bed. Jacob’s sufferings were really great. By the time he settled in Hebron he had lost everything. Yet through all these sufferings, he gradually became mature. He was no longer active in himself; rather, he became quiet and retreated to the background.

(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)