Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but this is my one aim:
to forget everything that's behind, and to strain every nerve to go after what lies ahead.
I press on toward the finish line, where the prize waiting for me is the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14)
by – Stuart H. Pouliot
May 28, 2009
Jacob's Distress—21 & 210-Year Cycles
Some proclaim that God is not in control of the affairs of men on earth. It is doubtful that Daniel
and the other ancient prophets would agree with such proclamations. According to Daniel, God
changes the times and the epochs by removing and establishing kings, as well as by giving wisdom and
knowledge to men so that change will come about through them. We need to be reminded that Jesus told
his questioning disciples: It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own
authority (Acts 1:7). In God's wisdom, He will reveal profound, even hidden, things to whomever He
pleases. For example, to Jeremiah, the young prophet, the Lord said: See, I have appointed you this day
over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to
build and to plant (Jeremiah 1:10).
God is the sovereign of His creation and, as such, He sets the times and the epochs. However, it is more
than merely setting a date, for God seems to work in time cycles or what could be called prophetic time-
cycles that often repeat themselves and overlap.
One such cycle is discovered in what Jeremiah called Jacob's distress or trouble . Alas! for that day is great,
there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob 's distress [trouble, adversity], but he will be saved from
it. (Jeremiah 30:7)
Many Christians have been trained to think of Jacob's distress as a future event at the end of the age
that involves the state of Israel and is called the great tribulation . I once held this view but no longer do. In
order to understand Jacob's distress or affliction, we need to understand the history of Jacob
(individually) as well as the history of his sons and descendants (nationally), and when we do, we
discover that there are two time-cycles based on the number 21. One of the meaning s of the
number 21 is the sinfulness of sin .
Simply, on an individual level, Jacob had two periods of distress, both of which lasted 21 years, and on a
national level, Jacob's descendants (as a nation) had two periods of national distress, both of which
lasted 210 years or 10 times 21.
These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters,
and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. (Genesis 31:41 ESV)
Jacob's first time of distress was the period he spent working for Laban; the first 14 years were for
Laban's two daughters, and the next 6 years were for his flock. We arrive at 21 years by accounting for
his travel time that could amount to another year. By his own admission, Jacob called this a time of
affliction and toiling of his hands . Jacob was known as a schemer or supplanter or, we could say, a
sinner, and the Lord dealt with him on this basis for those years, finally releasing him from bondage
after 21 years (signifying the sinfulness of sin) or in the twenty-second year. By the way, the number 22
refers to light . Truly, the light dawned on Jacob as he wrestled with the angel of the Lord all night until he
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Jacob's Distress—21 & 210-Year Cycles
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came to see that God rules , which is the meaning of the name Israel , given to him at Penuel (Genesis
Jacob's second 21-year period of distress commenced when his son, Joseph, was sold into Egyptian
slavery by his brothers. However, this turned into a blessing from the Lord when Joseph was appointed the
ruler of Egypt (Genesis 41). But for Jacob, it was 21 years of a deeper affliction as he mourned the loss of
his son, weeping for him and refusing to be comforted: Surely, I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my
son (Genesis 37:35).
His mourning was turned into joy when, due to a great famine, Jacob was reunited with Joseph, and the
sons of Israel moved to Egypt, which began a new period on a national level that lasted for the next 210
years or 10 times 21. The number 10 refers to the completion of divine order or a whole cycle is completed .
The sons of Israel lived in Egypt under bondage for 210 years and not 430 years. In other words,
the Israelites completed a cycle of distress just like their father had completed. Indeed, after Joseph's death
(Exodus 1), Jacob's descendants entered into a period of distress or hard labor and affliction similar to
Jacob's time under Laban. This was the first of two 210-year cycles. Check out this link:
Starting Point—400 & 430 Years — http://www.kingdomandglory.com/tuc/tuc290.pdf
The second cycle began in 931 BC after the death of Solomon that also resulted in Joseph being
separated from his brothers, only this time it was on a national level. By the end of his reign, Solomon
had placed a heavy tax load on the citizens of the kingdom (sound familiar?). Upon Solomon's death,
his son Rehoboam became king, at which time, the assembly of Israel approached Rehoboam
requesting him to lighten their load, that is, reduce their taxes (1 Kings 12:4). Unfortunately, Rehoboam
listened to his young friends, and instead of lowering taxes, increased them, which in turn led to a revolt by
the house of Israel and the dividing of the kingdom into the house of Judah (two tribes of Judah,
Benjamin plus Levi) in the south (Jerusalem) and the house of Israel (10 tribes) in the north (Samaria). The
name Israel was given to Joseph's two sons (Genesis 48:15-16) and is representative of the
birthright and sonship (Genesis 49:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2), which speaks of the kingdom of God and the
right to rule in it as a son. When the tribes divided, the name Israel remained with the tribes of Joseph's
sons, for only they have the right to bear the name. By contrast, the name Judah followed the house of
David the king because the scepter was given to Judah by his father (Genesis 49:10), which represents
kingship . Jesus had to come from the line of Judah in order to qualify as king.
The fact of the matter is that Rehoboam was a Judahite and his actions led to the separation of the two
houses, just as Judah suggested selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver (Genesis
37:26-28), which led to Joseph being separated from his bothers for 21 years. Consequently, the two
houses were separated from each other for the next 210 years until Israel was lost among the nations. A
24-year siege by the Assyrians began in 745 BC that ended in 721 BC when Israel 's capital in Samaria
was finally captured after a 3-year siege. At this point, it could be said that the house of Israel became
the lost sheep of the house of Israel , for they lost their national identity as they were dispersed among
the nations; a dispersion that ultimately led them to Europe, the British Isles, North America (Canada and
the United States), Australia, and South Africa—a dispersion and loss of national identity that has
remained to our present day. Contrary to common thinking, the modern-day state of Israel is not the
lost house of Israel. Rather, it is a supplanter (like Jacob) that has taken the name Israel . The true Israel of
God believes in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, the Christ or Anointed One.
Thus, we see there are two time-cycles associated with Jacob and his descendants.