Who was Jacob in the Old Testament?

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Ancestors

Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebecca, and the grandson of Abraham and Sarah (Luke 3:34). He is regarded as a great patriarch to the Israelites. He was the second-born of Isaac’s children, the elder was his fraternal twin brother, Esau (Genesis 25:19-26).

God’s Covenant

Jacob bought Esau’s birthright and, with his mother’s help, deceived his aging father to bless him instead of Esau (Genesis 25-27). Because of Esau’s great anger, he fled to Haran to his uncle Laban. On the way, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and declared,

I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Genesis 28: 13-15).

The Lord not only affirmed to him all the promises made to his fathers—the possession of Canaan, a numerous offspring, and blessing to all men (Genesis 12:2, 3; 13:14–17; 15:5, 7, 16; 17:2–6, 16; 17:8; 18:18; 22:17, 18; 26:3, 4, 24) but promised him protection on his journey and a safe return home.

Marriages

In Haran, the patriarch fell in love with his uncle’s daughter, Rachel, and proposed to marry her for 7 years of service to her father. But Laban deceived him and gave him Leah his oldest daughter at his wedding night. After a week, Jacob was given Rachel for another 7 years of service (Genesis 29). And the Lord blessed him with children (Genesis 29-30).

After finishing his years of service to Laban, Jacob left his uncle Laban, who was not fair with him (Genesis 31). And he went back to the land of his father – Canaan. But the news of his brother Esau coming with soldiers to meet him greatly frightened him. So, he sought the Lord in repentance for the sin of deception and the Lord forgave him and changed his name from Jacob to Israel (Genesis 32:28). And God gave him grace and his brother reconciled with him (Genesis 32-33).

Sons

Jacob had twelve sons by four women, his wives, Leah and Rachel, and his concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. His sons were, in order of their birth, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Genesis 35:23-26). Jacob showed favoritism among his wives and children, preferring Rachel (his first love) and her sons, Joseph and Benjamin.

Joseph had two distinct dreams that foretold the he would be a ruler of his brothers and even his father and mother. This caused tense jealousy within the family which led Leah’s sons to sell Joseph into slavery. And they lied at their father and told him that a wild beast had eaten Joseph. Jacob greatly mourned the loss of his beloved Joseph (Genesis 37).

But the Lord was with Joseph in Egypt and prospered him supernaturally. And through a series of Providences, Joseph was lifted to be Pharaoh’s governor over all Egypt (Genesis 39-41).

Later, after a severe drought in his homeland of Canaan, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food. There, they met the governor (Joseph) but didn’t realize that he was their brother. Before revealing his identity to them, Joseph tested them to see if they still have wicked hearts. But when he saw that they have repented of their sins, he revealed himself to them and offered them forgiveness (Genesis 45).

Death

Jacob and his descendants moved to Egypt. And he was overjoyed to meet Joseph and see that is the governor of Egypt. Thus, Joseph’s dreams came to pass. Before his death, Jacob blessed his children and prophesied over them. Then, he died at the age of 147 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 49-50). Jacob’s sons became the heads of their own family groups, later known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Genesis 49:28).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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