The House of Jacob

March 28, 2024

What is most striking about this verse are the three terms for the Jewish people; Jacob, Israel, and the house of Jacob. Of course, both Jacob and Israel are names for the third patriarch and subsequently appear as names for the nation as a whole. That said, why did Isaiah use each of these terms the way that he did here in this verse?

First, let’s understand the connotation of each of these names for the nation of Israel. 

Jacob as a name for the Jewish people

In my discussion of Isaiah 2:3, I discussed the meaning of Jacob’s name, and what it implies when it is used as a name for the entire Jewish people. If you haven’t read that yet or don’t recall what I wrote, pause here and read that detailed explanation.

Here’s the key point, taken from that teaching:

The People of Israel, like their forefather and namesake, are sometimes forced to live in exile as subordinates and second-class citizens – the follower, the heel – in a hostile anti-Semitic environment. Like Jacob their father, Jews have repeatedly been forced to flee after being unjustly accused and targeted. When scripture refers to the People of Israel as Jacob, it is this weakened, exile identity that is being described.

When the Jewish people as a whole are referred to as Jacob, the implication is their weakened, subordinate status in the exile. The name, Israel, on the other hand, refers to the strong, influential, and free nation of Israel.

House of Jacob

Now what about the term, House of Jacob? This name for the Jewish people appears in many verses in the Bible. In fact, there are even two verses that describe the nation of Israel during their forty-year sojourn in the Sinai desert using both names, Jacob and Israel, in the same verse.

The first is right after the exodus from Egypt when the nation arrives at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah:

These two names appear together a second time when Bilaam, the wicked prophet, was overcome by the spirit of God and, despite his original evil intent to curse Israel, he blessed them:

Tents and Tabernacles

Notice that Bilaam refers to tents in relation to Jacob and tabernacles in relation to Israel.

The juxtaposition of Jacob to tents reminds us of Genesis 25:27 where, as a youngster, Jacob is described as a dweller of tents in contrast to his brother Esau; a hunter and a man of the field.

Tents and houses are private places. A tabernacle, on the other hand, is very public. The entire purpose of a tabernacle is the glory of God. It is open to all to come to worship and be inspired.

  • Tent = Private dwelling 
  • Tabernacle = Public place of worship

The public covenantal relationship with God is implied by the Tabernacle. Anyone who has faith in God and devotes their life to serving Him understands that the focus of that service is to bring knowledge of God to the entire earth. Israel is a name that implies this grand mission of influence. It is derived from two words. Sar – meaning prince or minister, and El – God. Israel connotes the ministering, influencing role of God’s people.

House of Jacob = private relationship to God

The House of Jacob describes the private relationship to God. Any devoted servant of God confronts challenges on a daily basis. It is true that the primary task in serving God is to influence, to lead, and to help others get close to Him. But there can be no influence without interaction. It is impossible to repair the world without engaging with it. And with that engagement, people of faith often find themselves in the position of being influenced by the darker parts of society, even as they try to make the world a better place.

To face this challenge, we need to be like Jacob; dwellers of tents. To stay strong in one’s faith values; to have the strength to continue to influence the world for the good, we must sometimes retreat from it. We must travel inward to our homes; to our families; to our tents. This is the “house of Jacob.”

  • Israel = Public, ministering role 
  • House of Jacob = Private relationship to God; retreat from the outside influences 

Back to Isaiah 14:1

Now we can understand our verse in Isaiah:

For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and He will place them on their land; the stranger will accompany them, and they will be appended to the house of Jacob. 

First, the Lord will have mercy on “Jacob,” on the Jewish people suffering in exile. Then God will choose “Israel,” meaning that God will choose to return the Jewish people to their status as a powerful nation in their land, charged with the mission to influence and minister to the world. Finally, the verse refers to the fact that even as Israel fulfills its outward-facing purpose to the world as Israel, they retain their private spiritual life, the House of Jacob. 

This verse describes those among the nations who join together with the Jewish people to assist them in their lofty mission. It is these gentiles, these “strangers,” who “accompany them,” participating in the spiritual life of the Jewish people. These gentiles join the nation of Israel in their mission to the world, and by proximity and involvement with the Jewish people, they are privy to the more private spiritual life and teachings of the House of Jacob.

The mission to influence the world requires engagement with it. This engagement can sometimes challenge us. We must fortify our private lives of faith as we reach out to others.

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Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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