Who were Abraham Isaac and Jacob?
In about a dozen places in the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (e.g., Genesis 50:24; Exodus 3:15; Acts 7:32). This name of God emphasizes the covenant that God made with Israel and the Israelites’ special place as God’s Chosen People.
God repeated the Abrahamic Covenant to three different generations: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all given the promise of land, many descendants, and blessing. The Lord first calls Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan, establishing a covenant with him (Genesis 12:1–3). God reaffirms the same covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac (Genesis 21:12; 26:3–4), and later with Isaac’s son, Jacob (Genesis 28:14–15). The Lord who established and ratified this covenant is rightly called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When God revealed Himself to Moses in preparation for bringing His people out of Egypt, He called Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” in Exodus 3:15. He also instructed Moses to identify the Lord by that name when speaking to the Israelites (verse 16). In this case, the name carries a couple of important implications. First, when God identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He clearly distinguishes Himself from the gods of Egypt in whose land the Israelites dwelt. Second, the reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob implies a reason for the exodus: the promise of land. God had vowed that the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would inherit a certain geographical area. God’s faithfulness and Israel’s blessing were directly tied to Israel’s possession of the Promised Land, and the name God uses for Himself harkens back to the covenant with Abraham.
In addition, Jacob’s name is translated as “he deceives” (Genesis 25:26). When his mother, Rebekah, asked God during her pregnancy what was happening to her, God told her that there were two nations within her womb who would become divided. One would be stronger than the other, and the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23). Jacob's name, "deceiver," characterized much of Jacob's life. But he was also Israel, one to whom God made promises to which He remained faithful. God appeared to Jacob, and Jacob believed God's promises. Despite Jacob’s faults, God chose him to be the leader of a great nation that still bears his name today. But for this, it is unlikely that we would know much about Jacob. There is no great wisdom or bravery in Jacob to speak of, the reason in part, that God did not say he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, is God wanted us to know He accepts us as we are, regardless of our feelings or thoughts or sins of the past. If we are tempted to think that because we aren’t in the spotlight performing great acts for God, we are unimportant to Him, then we should consider the life of Jacob and know that, in spite of our failings, God can and will still use us in His plan.
Jesus alluded to God’s burning-bush appearance to Moses and used God’s name to teach a lesson on the resurrection to the Sadducees: “About the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:31–32). As Jesus points out, the verb am is in the present tense; God did not say, “I was the God of your fathers.” He said, “I am their God,” showing that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive (in heaven) in Moses’ day.
In Acts 3, as Peter preaches to the Jews in the temple, he refers to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a name that his hearers would have commonly used in their worship. Peter and John had just healed a lame man, who was now standing before them. Peter attributes the miracle to the power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, working through Jesus. In other words, Peter was careful to link the miracle they had just witnessed to the one and only God of their fathers.
The same God who spoke to the patriarchs was at work in their midst, and Jesus should get the glory.
In explaining the miracle of a lame man walking, Peter said: “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.” Acts 3:13.
The God whom the Jews purported to revere treated Jesus of Nazareth much differently than they had: God glorified Jesus, and they killed Him. “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” Acts 3:15
Peter reminds his hearers that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was fulfilling His covenant with them: “You are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers” Acts 3:25. Many Jews believed in Christ that day, but Peter and John were thrown in jail.
“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Acts 4:1–4