Jacob’s prayer

Part 6: Journey through salvation history to understand the Pre-Lenten Seasons

Thus far, we have understood how Genesis 3:15, or the “seed of woman” will one day deliver God’s people from Adam’s sin. God selected out the progeny of faithful and obedient Abraham to participate in this plan so that the “seed of Abraham” (which actually includes both Isaac and Ishmael, or symbolically Jews and non-Jews) will be the source of blessing for all humans. Sarah (Genesis 18) and Sampson’s mother’s annunciations were hints at Mary’s future perfectly executed Annunciation and the birth of him who is called “Wonderful.” We found out that the identity of Mr. Wonderful, vaguely revealed to be among the angelic Trinity at the oak of Mamre, is the same Wonderful appearing at the conception of Sampson and who also saved and redeemed Israel by appearing at their crossing at the Red Sea and even at the mystical overshadowing of a cloud in the meeting tent of Moses.

The Angel is clearly the pre-Incarnate Son and the fire and smoke is a prefiguring of the coming of the Holy Spirit. While Sampson as an almost godlike procured temporary “deliverance,” and “salvation” from evil Philistines, the Angel-redeemer of Jacob (Genesis 48:15) will provide life-long saving from womb to tomb. It is he, for Jacob, who is the source of “blessing” for the seed of Abraham. In fact, Jacob’s prayer is considered by first- and second- century Christians (Tertullian, Novatian, etc.) to provide the Christian paradigm for sacramental prayers and blessing: (1) Jacob invokes God, (2) he remembers past great deeds, or the “anamnesis,” (3) the Angel of the Lord is named, (4) who is asked to bless the person or item, (5) the purpose of blessing is given, (6) and a doxology that this blessing should be limitless ends the prayer. Of course, Jacob expects his son Joseph to say: “Amen,” to his blessing the second oldest son over and above Joseph’s eldest. So, Joseph does a naughty thing, he
proclaims “let it not be done,” or “not-Amen.”

Joseph’s “not-Amen” to this liturgical prayer of Jacob’s blessing for the promise of Abraham to be fulfilled in a child of blessing for every nation is therefore delayed. Only Mary, at her Annunciation, undoes the curse of Joseph’s “notAmen,” by taking on a husband who will support the child of blessing, namely, the New Joseph. Still, it is mystically Mary — not the New Joseph — who hears: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). Of course, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream to secure his cooperation, that is, his consent to Mary’s “Amen” or “Let it be done.” In this the New Joseph overcomes the defects of his ancient type, like Mary to Sarah, and Jesus to Sampson.

Importantly, however, the prefiguring annunciations of Mary culminate in a prophecy to the line of King David before the political destruction of Israel beginning around 700 BC. The seed of Abraham was being constantly accompanied by Yahweh in its political history. However, even in great prosperity, there was great sin that displeased God. So, the Lord provided for the destruction of the kingdom in consequence of sin. This suggested that sin was the real culprit, not poor practice of poly-science. Consequently, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the politically weak but spiritually strong Davidic King, Hezekiah, as prefiguring of the coming of the “wonderful” child to redeem and save God’s people. In his prophecy we see two entirely familiar elements (from previous articles), namely, the sacredness of a shadow and Mr. Wonderful associated with a miraculous birth. What is more, by use of both the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, we notice that they equally attest to child of promise to be Mr. Wonderful. The Septuagint (LXX) calls the child “the Angel of Great Counsel” (LXX Isaiah 9:6), while the Hebrew calls him “Wonderful.” Both of them point back to the place where an Angel Wonderful, namely, the Angel at the Annunciation to Sampson’s mom, and the “wonderful” hinted at by the angelic Trinity at the annunciation to Sarah. The Isaiah prophecy will definitively secure Mary’s unique claim to bear the child of promise in my next article