Jacob was the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Jacob’s 12 sons were the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jacob means “he grabs the heel”, or “treacherous”.
Jacob did many wrong things, but he got right with God. His life is an example of God’s grace and forgiveness.
See also: who was Abraham in the Bible?
Jacob and Esau
Jacob had a twin named Esau, who was Isaac’s favorite son. But Jacob was Rebeca’s favorite. When they were born, Esau went out first but with Jacob grabbing his heel ( Genesis 25: 24-26 ).
When Isaac was old and blind, he called Esau to bless him. When Esau went out to hunt and prepare a meal for his father, Rebekah called Jacob to take the blessing, deceiving Isaac. Jacob dressed as Esau and Isaac, deceived, gave him Esau’s blessing.
Find out here: who was Rebeca in the Bible?
When Esau returned and found out, he was furious with Jacob and wanted to kill him ( Genesis 27:41 ). The elder son’s blessing was very important at that time. Esau had lost his inheritance. So Jacob fled to his uncle Laban’s land. On the way, Jacob had a dream and made a covenant with God .
Jacob fell in love with Rachel , the daughter of Laban, and worked seven years to marry her. But on the night of the wedding, Laban deceived him and gave him Leah , Rachel’s older sister. When he found out, Jacob was angry but agreed to marry Rachel the following week, in exchange for another seven years of work ( Genesis 29: 28-30 ).
Lia had six children. Rachel was sterile and was jealous. So she gave her servant Bila to Jacob as a concubine (secondary wife) and Bila had two children. Lia, by rivalry, gave her servant Zilpa to Jacob and Zilpa had two more children. Finally, Rachel had a son named José.
After he paid the dowry for Rachel and Leah, Jacob went to work for Laban and became very wealthy. Laban and his sons were jealous and Jacob felt threatened ( Genesis 31: 1-3 ). So Jacob took his family and possessions and fled. Laban went after him but God warned him not to fight Jacob. Laban and Jacob made a peace agreement and Jacob returned to his father’s land.
See here: the 5 encounters with God that marked the life of Jacob.
Two big meetings
Esau went to meet Jacob with 400 men. Jacob was afraid, sent many gifts to his brother and spent a night alone. During the night a man came and fought with him. In the struggle the man dislocated his thigh but Jacob did not let him go without receiving a blessing. The man blessed him and changed his name from Jacob to Israel , because he had fought with God and with men and won ( Genesis 32: 27-28 ).
The next day, Jacob met with Esau , who was happy to see him again. Even so, Jacob was afraid to live with his brother and went to live in neighboring lands. Jacob dedicated himself totally to God and led his family to worship only God, ending idolatry ( Genesis 35: 2-3 ).
Also read: what is the meaning of Israel?
Jacob’s Last Years
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son and caused the envy of his brothers, who sold him as a slave and said he had died. Jacob was very sad to lose Joseph. Rachel had another son, named Benjamin, but she died after giving birth. Several years later, when Jacob discovered that Joseph was still alive, he and his family moved to Egypt ( Genesis 45: 26-28 ). Jacob died in Egypt but was buried in the tomb of Abraham and Isaac.