The setting for the epic drama that would surround Jacob is set and unfolds over many decades. Abraham’s grandson and the younger of Isaac and Rebecca’s twins, Jacob, would be stronger than his older brother Esau and the two would be separate nations and would go on their separate ways.
Jacob, the third Patriarch is first mentioned in the bible in the Bible is in Genesis 25 even before his birth.
The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”Genesis 25:23
As children, the shy and sensitive Jacob was his mamma’s boy while his rough and tough brother Esau was their father’s favourite. One day the hunter goes on a long hunting trip and returns to find Jacob preparing lentil stew and doesn’t think twice before giving away his birthright to Jacob in exchange for the stew.
When Rebekah gets to know that Isaac is about to bless Esau she intervenes and dresses up Jacob as his older brother and sends him to Isaac with his favourite meat preparation. Isaac is hesitant as he had not expected his elder son to hunt, return and prepare the meat so soon and also the voice sounded like Jacob’s. But he doesn’t wonder too long and after partaking of his favourite meal, blesses the younger son with the choicest blessings that he had stored for his elder son.
Esau is hopping mad when he finds out and considers it the second time his brother has cheated him of his blessings and decides to kill Jacob after Isaac passes away. Rebecca gets wind of this and under the guise of seeking a non-Canaanite bride for Jacob, gets permission from her husband to send Jacob off to her home-town of Paddan-Aram to her brother Laban.
God’s Promises to Jacob
Jacob runs away during the night with the blessings of his parents and while resting during the night, he sees a dream with a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. The Lord speaks to him and blesses him and promises the land he lies on would be his and his descendants who will be like the dust of the world. The Lord promises to watch over him and go where he goes and would bring him back to this land. Jacob names the place the House of God.
Love and Family Life
Events take a turn when he reaches his uncle’s household and falls in love with the younger daughter, Rachel. He works for seven years in return for marriage to Rachel and the tables are turned on the cheater, as he is the one who is now cheated and he finds out that he has been married to the older daughter, Leah.
Long story short, Jacob has more than a dozen children but not without heartbreak as his sweetheart Rachel was barren for a long time while Leah kept having children. The sisterly rivalry turned their maids also into child-bearing facilities. Jacob had ten sons through Leah and the maid servants. Finally, God blessed Rachel with a son, Joseph, who became the apple of his father’s eye and the bone of contention among his brothers.
Jacob to Israel, a Makeover
After twenty years, Jacob flees from Laban with all his family members and seeks to reunite with his brother Esau to return to his land. On the way, he wrestles with God at night and is blessed with a new name ‘Israel’ as he has struggled with God and man and had prevailed. He meets with his brother and they make peace. Jacob returns to Bethel and God appears before him once again. The Lord proclaims his name will be Israel from that day forward and blesses him to be a fruitful and abundant nation.
Jacob is heartbroken when his beloved Rachel passes away while giving birth to another son, Benjamin. Jacob dotes on his favourite son, the dreamer, who was a source of jealousy for the other sons. Finally, they could take it no more and they sold Joseph as a slave and even fooled Jacob into believing that his favourite son had been killed by a wild beast. Jacob was already heart-broken at the loss of Rachel and now Joseph and became more and more dependent on his youngest son, Benjamin.
God remained faithful to Jacob throughout his life. He protected Jacob wherever he went. He kept Jacob’s favourite son safe and over a course of time, promoted him to high places as the second-in-command of the most prosperous country when famine struck the lands. He also gave Joseph the heart to forgive his brothers for what they had done to him and brought back his father and their whole extended family to live in Egypt till the time the famine lasted.
At long last, Jacob died peacefully at a ripe old age surrounded by all his family members, especially his favourite son who he had once thought he had lost and was able to be with his two grandsons as well. He died after blessing his sons and extracting a promise that he would not be buried in Egypt but in the burial place of their family.
The life of Jacob takes the twists and turns of a modern potboiler. The cast changes over time but there is sibling rivalry between two brothers, two sisters and among a dozen brothers; parental favouritisms; deceit and betrayals; thirsts for revenge; love and romance; heartbreaks; deaths and family reunions. The cheater becomes the cheated. The young lad becomes the patriarch of God’s select people. The younger becomes the stronger nation (Israel) and Esau’s descendants are the Edomites (who become the Israelites’ enemies) as was foretold to Rebekah. In all this, we see how God made Jacob Israel despite all his failings and watched over him and his descendants just as He had promised.
We can apply many of the lessons that Jacob learns, sometimes the hard way, in our lives. Jacob humbles himself, seeks the Lord and obeys His commands, and in turn is abundantly and exceedingly blessed. We see how Jacob transforms and grows from being labelled a cheater to becoming the patriarch of God’s chosen people.
Over and over in the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The chosen nation of God, Israel, is called after him and Jacob is also mentioned in many books of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Through him mankind is blessed and the Saviour Jesus Christ is born in his lineage. What a wonderful privilege and honour!
It reassures us that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us, much before we were formed in our mother’s wombs and much before the foundation of the world. We can be assured that God cares about each one of us and we are unique to Him. He will fulfil all the promises that He has made to us.