The Covenant Line Continues with Isaac and Jacob
Why did the Lord choose Isaac and Jacob? How were they chosen to perpetuate the covenant the Lord had made with Abraham? The purpose of this chapter is to assist you in picking out the significant events as the God of Abraham became the God of Isaac and Jacob. You will learn that of the eight sons of Abraham recorded in scripture the Lord singled out Isaac to become the heir to the covenant. Later, God chose Jacob over Esau, even though Esau was the firstborn and seemed to be his father’s favorite.
Isaac and Jacob were foreordained to their responsibilities. Through their personal worthiness, however, they justified their callings in the covenant line. Since the time of these mighty patriarchs, all of the chosen people of the Lord have come through their lineage or have been adopted into their lineage. In the Old Testament, Jehovah is repeatedly called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, it is significant that you understand not only who Abraham is but also why the Lord chose Isaac and Jacob to be the first of the house of Israel.
As you begin to study the expansion of the covenant line, remember one thing. Sometimes we tend to oversimplify the concept of a covenant people and the heritage of certain groups of people. For example, we tend to think of the Arabs as descendants of Ishmael or Esau, the Jews as descendants of Judah, the American Indians and South Pacific Islanders as descendants of Laman, and so forth. In broad terms all of these statements are true, of course, but through centuries of intermarriage and conversion, the “pure blood lines” (an impossible term in reality) of the various ancestors have been vastly intermingled. Surely down through nearly four thousand years the descendants of Isaac have intermarried with the descendants of Ishmael and the other sons of Abraham. We know that after the ten tribes were taken into captivity the term Jew was used in a nationalistic sense (to mean a member of the kingdom of Judah) and not just in a tribal sense (to mean a descendant of Judah, son of Jacob). Thus, Lehi, who was of Manasseh (see Alma 10:3 ), and Ishmael, who was of Ephraim (see Erastus Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 23:184–85), were Jews, that is, were living in Judah.
In the Book of Mormon, Lamanite was used in a spiritual sense (to mean one who had apostatized from the truth), as well as in the sense of lineage from Laman (see 4 Nephi 1:38 ). A later example of how blood lines mix is found in the conversion of a whole nation to Judaism in the eighth century A.D. The majority of the people in the kingdom of the Khazars, in what is present-day Russia, became Jews by religion (see Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v. “Khazars,” 10:944–47). Many modern Jews from Europe can trace their lineage to the Khazars who, before 740 A.D. , were Gentiles.
The black Africans of Ethiopia claim to be descendants of King David through the marriage of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (see 1 Kings 10:1–13 ; Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v. “Ethiopia,” 6:943). So it is possible that the blood of Israel spread through Africa as well.
Even though there are groups today that could be thought of as predominantly Israel or predominantly Gentile, almost certainly blood of both lines can be found in most peoples of the earth. The important thing is that being Israel, or a covenant person, involves faithfulness as well as blood lineage. Thus, as Nephi said, repentance and faith in the Holy One of Israel is what determines whether one is of the covenant (see 2 Nephi 30:2 ), a concept also taught by Paul (see Romans 2:28–29 ). In other words, while the blood lineage is significant, it can be overridden by one’s own faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. You will see this concept taught from the beginning as you read the early history of the covenant people.(Old Testament Institute Student Manual Genesis - 2 Samuel, p. 83)