History of Israel

National Identity

13 February 2022
4 minutes to read

Father of a Nation

Jacob was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. These three prominent figures in Genesis were the ancestors of the people known as the Israelites. They are nearly always mentioned in Scripture together, signifying that God keeps his promises from one generation to the next.

God blessed him, changed his name to Israel, and repeated the covenant promise stating that a nation and company of nations would come from him.

Abraham became a channel of blessing (Gen. 12:1-3) for his descendants through his faith and obedience. Isaac in turn became a channel of blessing for his descendants (Gen. 26:3-5) and in due course Jacob also inherited through divine choice the spiritual and material legacy of his forefathers (Gen. 28:10-17). So God became known as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Ex. 3:6), a unique spiritual legacy that was handed down to each successive generation of a people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who kept covenant with God.

In Genesis 35, Jacob returned to his homeland an older and wiser man. Here God blessed him, changed his name to Israel, and repeated the covenant promise stating that a nation and company of nations would come from him. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all family men, blessed with having children, even in old age as with Abraham and Sarah. Jacob was blessed with 12 sons and one daughter. The sons of Jacob (Israel), their wives and children who went to live in Egypt increased to become a numerous people.

Just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the heads of their families, the sons of Israel became the heads of their respective families. In Acts 7, Stephen’s defence gives a potted history of the Old Testament where he states that Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs (heads of families) associated with God’s original covenant with Abraham. God’s promises to Abraham were realised in the establishment of a great nation originating from the sons of Jacob (Israel) keeping covenant with God, entrusted with a unique formulaic pattern that would in generations to come be referred to as ‘the faith’ (Acts 6:7, Jude 3).


Graham Schleyer, The Church of God in Liverpool


We Are a Nation 

1 Peter 2 is an encouraging chapter for us – it speaks of our unmerited worth in God’s eyes. Verses 9 and 10 outline both our privilege and our purpose through what God has done for us and what he has brought us into.

‘A chosen people’ – we are chosen by God! That in itself is a wonderful truth, but it embodies more than just our salvation. Verse 9 says we are a ‘royal priesthood’ and a ‘holy nation’. 

Just as it was at the time of the early churches, God intends for us to function today as a united people with a single mind.

Today, the priesthood part of our calling is to bring to God the spiritual sacrifices mentioned in verse 5, and through these sacrifices we fulfil the latter part of verse 9: ‘…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ This is what we do in the Remembrance on a Sunday morning, when we bring carefully-prepared offerings of thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Son. We also speak God’s praises as we talk about him to others. 

What does it mean to be a holy nation? A nation is a unity – a singular body – and to be holy is to be dedicated to God. Our lives are to reflect this: verse 10 highlights the fact that we have been deliberately brought together for a purpose. Just as it was at the time of the early churches, God intends for us to function today as a united people with a single mind. It’s the template seen throughout the Bible, and it’s what we strive to do in the churches of God. 

Finally, in verse 9, we are described as ‘God’s special possession’. We’re special to God – to the extent that he bought us with the blood of His Son. This sets up a challenge for us: when we think about what it cost God to redeem us, our response should be a desire to set ourselves apart for God’s service in the way that he has outlined for us in his Word.


Giles Hickling, The Church of God in Manchester

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