Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

3) “The Time Of Jacob’s Trouble”

Jererniah 30, 31

The phrase (Jeremiah 30: 7) is a familiar one to all students of prophecy. It turns out to be the key to the understanding of a remarkably complete picture of the day of Messiah.

“Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it (a time of trouble such as never was! Daniel 12: 1); for it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.” Clearly this is intended to be the last great deliverance. And how? By the coming of Israel’s Messiah. The Hebrew text here almost clamours to be translated: “the time of Jacob’s trouble, but out of it Jesus”!

A further specially significant detail is that this keyword “trouble” is the same Hebrew root which is used to describe how Jacob trembled at his impending encounter with Esau: “Then Jacob was exceedingly afraid and distressed ... Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children” (Genesis 32:7, 11).


The phraseology in Jeremiah 30 seems to imply that Jacob’s experience when he returned from his arduous life with Laban only to encounter Esau near the river Jabbok will be re-enacted in the Last Days experience of his nation.

This conclusion is surely put beyond doubt by the remarkable series of allusions in Jeremiah 31 to that period in Jacob’s life:

v. 7: 0 Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.

v. 8: Behold, I will bring them from the north country (compare the return from Laban in Syria) ... and with them the blind (Isaac? Leah?) and the lame (Jacob halting upon his thigh), the woman with child (Leah), and her that travaileth with child (Rachel).

v. 9: with weeping, and with supplications (Jacob’s importunity with the angel: Hosea 12:4) ... by the rivers of waters (the Jabbok) in a straight way wherein they shall not stumble (Jacob’s lameness) ... Ephraim is my firstborn (Joseph the favourite).

v. 11: For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him (Laban) that was stronger than he.

v. 15: Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted (Benjamin=Benoni=son of my sorrow).

v. 16: thy work shall be rewarded (contrast Laban’s treatment of Jacob).

v. 19: after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh (again, Jacob’s lameness).

v. 21: Set thee up way marks (the heap of witness — Genesis 31: 45, 53 — to mark the final return to the Land).

Those accustomed to this kind of allusiveness in the writings of the prophets will have no difficulty in recognizing that here the final return of Israel is being described in terms of the return of Jacob from Syria. The entire picture in Genesis is marvellously apposite.

Because he sought the heavenly blessing by his own devices, Jacob was compelled to leave the Land of Promise. He spent many years in a Gentile land enduring hardship and oppression. At last God brought him away from persecution to dwell in the Land, which was his by right. No sooner was he returned than he had to encounter his brother Esau, “which is Edom,” coming against him with a great force of men. In the night, which followed, Jacob wrestled — against Esau, so he thought! — for the safety of his family. If they were to survive, everything depended on his self-reliance, prowess and ultimate victory. Yet all the time he was actually pitting his puny strength against angelic powers who, unseen, controlled and directed his life. All his days this had been Jacob’s fault. Now, wrestling at Jabbok, the lesson was learned. It meant subjection to Esau (see Genesis 33, especially v. 3), and the outcome — all unexpected — was that he was left unmolested in the Land. God appeared to him at Bethel, and the great Promise was ratified.


The teaching of Jeremiah 30, 31 is that all these events, pregnant with meaning, are to be re-enacted in the Last Days. Already Jacob has returned from the land of his oppressor where he has borne long and arduous task work. In the Land of Promise he has encountered Esau soon to prove mightier than he. With little reliance on God but with confidence in his own powers he now wrestles for national survival. All this is according to the unerring counsel of God, but the divine Providence in these momentous developments goes unrecognised. So there must ensue a time when Jacob, lame and disabled, shall acknowledge the superior might of Esau — but, now acknowledging also the over-ruling power and wisdom of God, Jacob becomes Israel, a people of destiny, freed from all adversaries and oppressors and rejoicing in inheritance of the Land and in a glorious vision of God:

And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 31: 28).

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