More often than not, prophetic events in the Bible are both figurative and literal and repeat themselves continuously throughout history.
For example, in reference to God rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the prophet Hosea said the following:
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then hundreds of years later, we are told the following in the New Testament:
“So he got up,
took the child and his mother during the night
and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the death of Herod.
And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said
through the prophet:
“Out of Egypt I called my son.”
In the first OT verse, “son” refers to the nation of Israel but as a prophetic statement it also refers to the baby Yeshua who was carried out of Egypt by his parents..
Another important point we need to keep in mind is that it is normally very difficult to recognize a prophetic statement as such until AFTER the event has occurred.
For instance, in Genesis 3 we are told that the woman will “crush the head of the serpent“.
Let’s face it, there is no way in the world that Adam and Eve had any idea that this meant that a descendant born from the seed of a woman would rise to defeat satan and become the savior of the whole world.
Or we’ve now arrived at that point in our Bible where the Tribe of Judah has been created.
This is the special tribe that will give birth to the Messiah.
However, there is no way for Jacob to have known that.
We only know because of the benefit of hindsight.
From the beginning of history, since God has revealed to each generation certain details that the generation before were not privy to, it is not surprising that we see things differently than scholars 50 years ago.
Another good example is the fact that in our lifetimes, we have witnessed Israel resurrect from the dead and take its place proudly among the other nations in the world.
We have also seen the ownership of Jerusalem transferred from the Gentiles back to the Jews.
This information alone along with the quickening of the Holy Spirit gives us insight into the Scripture that generations before us simply did not have.
As we move closer to the end of time, details that are now shadowy will become increasingly clear.
What God revealed to Jacob in Genesis 35 is a perfect example of this enigmatic progressive revelation at work.
Let’s take a look at verse 11.
“And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants.”
God is making it clear to Jacob that not only will he give birth to a particular nation but that he will also give birth to a group of nations.
This is different than what God told Abraham in Genesis 17:5
“No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.”
The Hebrew word for “nations” here is GOY.
Now let’s take a look at the prophetic statement that God uttered to Jacob back in Genesis 28:3.
“May God bless you, make you fruitful and increase your descendants, until they become a company of nations.“
In this case the Hebrew word for “company of nations” is “KAHAL AMMIM” which translates to “a community of fellow countrymen“.
In other words, God told Abraham that he would give birth to a variety of nations and people groups.
However, He told Jacob that he would produce a special homogenous people group that would be holy and united in purpose… this would be the nation of Israel.
THIS IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
But hold on, I’m not done.
In Genesis 35:11, things changed once again and this is freakin’ awesome.
In 35:11, God basically tells Jacob the same thing He told Abraham except one MAJOR IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE.
God tells Jacob that in addition to a “nation”, he will produce a “holy convocation of goy“!!!
Okay, you’re probably confused as all hell by now, so let me break it down for you real simple.
FIRST: In Genesis 17:5, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of many “nations”(goy). (Remember there was no such thing as a Hebrew at this point in time, so GOY just meant any old nation like how we use the word nation today.)
SECOND: In Genesis 28:3, God tells Jacob that he will produce a “holy countrymen”(KAHAL AMMIM). In other words, Jacob will give birth to the nation of Israel. Now understand that at this juncture, God has now divided the world into two people groups: Hebrews and everybody else. Remember GOY refers to everybody else.
FINALLY: In Genesis 35:11, God tells Jacob that a nation (Israel) AND a holy convocation of BOTH Hebrew and Gentile nations will come from you.
This may sound quite baffling until we come to the realization of one very important thing.
Using the power of hindsight, we can verify that all of these conditions promised to Jacob came true.
Abraham produced Hebrews (Isaac) and non-Hebrews (Ishmael and others).
Isaac produced Hebrews (Jacob) and non-Hebrews (Esau).
Jacob produced ONLY Hebrew children: The 12 tribes of Israel.
However, later on we will see Jacob adopt his son Joseph’s two Egyptian children away from him.
Their names were Manasseh and Ephraim.
Ephraim would end up taking over the ruling authority that would have gone to Joseph.
Later, Ephraim as an Israelite tribe that had Egyptian blood in it would be scattered by the Assyrians and end up having their gene pool absorbed by the Gentile world.
However, according to Bible prophecy, Ephraim will somehow be reunited with remaining folks of the tribe of Judah, today’s Jews.
Actually, this is happening right now as you read this!
So can you see how God’s prophetic statement to Jacob in 35:11 that he would produce a nation (Israel) AND a community of nations (Ephraim that was absorbed by the Gentile nations ) makes sense and can only make sense in hindsight.
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.-Ezekiel 37:19-21