Jacob as God?

Jacob as God? June 25, 2013

The scripture reading in church on Sunday was from Psalm 24. Since the invention of the iPad made it so much more convenient to do so, I've been trying to read along in the original languages whenever possible.

I was really struck when I saw that in the midst of a psalm with many mentions of Yahweh in the third person, there is what most naturally seems to be a second person address to Jacob: מְבַקְשֵׁי פָנֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב

While most translations find some way to avoid this meaning, I wonder what most scholars think. Could it be that the patriarchs in ancient Israel's narratives were either worshiped in some sort of ancestral cult at some point in Israel's history, or alternatively, represent the turning of divine figures or demigods into something more mundane in the form in which we now encounter them?

Or is the Septuagint, which renders it “God of Jacob,” best understood as evidence that that phrase was what originally appeared here? Or is that best seen as a “correction” that attempts to improve the sense of what was and is a difficult text?


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  • Dustin Smith

    Could not Jacob be the name of the generation which seeks your (God’s) face?

    • That’s how it is sometimes rendered, but it isn’t the most natural way of understanding the text.

  • Michael Wilson

    I think I have seen an opinion that a Jacob might have been the name of a Semitic deity, but I can’t find a citation for you. The name appears in other ancient context. For instance their was a Hyksos king named Jacob-Baal. Given that the poem is addressed to Yahweh, I could be that this was earlier a poem to Jacob that was modified to be a poem to Yahweh and someone kept in one of the Jacobs or that Yahweh was sometimes called by the name or title Jacob. On the ancwestral cult, we know from Jerimiah that some Israelites had a cult for the dead and part of that cult seemed to have included dead heroes of the ancient past, the rephim and nephilim, similar to beliefs among the near by Greeks.

  • Mark Douglass

    This ‘complexification’ of the divine and mortal realms is common in mythologies throughout human cultures, as is the semi-permeability of the divine/human membrane. The reliance on ancestors-as-divine-forebears has fallen from favor to some extent, but remains a compelling way to understand the way stories formed. Could/should apply to Biblical rendition as well, right?