Story Of Jacob In The Bible

The story of Jacob in the Bible is a tale of a man whose family was greatly divided. Jacob’s children bickered and struggled against each other, often demanding the rights to their father’s inheritance, even before he passed away. The Bible tells us that Jacob was deeply troubled by his offspring’s constant quarreling and fighting.

Jacob (hebrew: יעקב, ya’aqov; arabic: يعقوب, yaaqūb) is one of the two patriarchs of the house of Israel (the other being his father, Isaac). According to the Book of Genesis, Jacob was born in Hebron after his family had moved there from Canaan. He went to live with his uncle Laban in Haran, where he met Rachel.  He married her after a period of trickery on Laban’s part where he was given her younger sister Leah instead. Jacob was later deceived into marrying Leah’s older sister, Rachel, by her father. Jacob would be Rachel’s first and foremost love; she would serve as his greatest support and love interest within the book.

The Biblical story of Jacob (also called Israel) is told in the Old Testament in a book called Genesis. The story starts at chapter 25 in Genesis and runs through until chapter 35, verse 22. Jacob’s life can be divided up into three periods: 1) his childhood and early adulthood (told in Genesis 25:19 – 27:46), 2) his time spent away from home that involved him tricking his father and three wives (told in Genesis 29:1 – 30:43), and 3) the time he spent back at home with his family (told in Genesis 30:44 – 36:43).

When we speak of Jacob, the first name that comes to mind is the name of a murderer, but in reality, Jacob was a man full of love and care. He was the grandson of Abraham and son of Isaac. Jacob’s father forced him to leave his home at a very tender age. He remained away from his parents for many years.

Story Of Jacob In The Bible

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers born to Isaac and Rebekah. The Bible tells us that they struggled together in Rebekah’s womb, a foreshadowing of their troubled relationship. Esau was born first and thereby became legal heir to the family birthright which included, among other things, being heir to the Covenant between God and Abraham. This birthright was a link in the line of descent through which the Promised Messiah was to come (Numbers 24:17-19).

In contrast with Esau who was a skillful hunter and his father’s favorite, Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents (Genesis 25:27), and his mother’s favorite. The Hebrew word for plain is the same word translated in other Scripture as perfect, upright, undefiled. So the word plain refers to Jacob’s character as a man of God. God records His highest praise and blessing for Jacob: The LORD hath chosen Jacob unto Himself (Psalm 135:4).

Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me . . . with that same red pottage (stew); for I am faint (Genesis 25:29-30). Knowing the character of his brother, Jacob replied: Sell me this day thy birthright (25:31). Esau had no interest in spiritual things so he agreed, saying: I am at the point (about) to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? (25:32-34). Esau could not have been at the point to die by missing one meal but he revealed how worthless he considered the birthright.

When Issac was close to death it became time to give Esau his blessings. Issac asked Esau to go hunt for a special meal after which he would pass the blessing. Rebekah overhead and helped Jacob disguise himself as Esau and bring Issac the meal instead while his brother was still hunting. Because Issac had poor sight he was tricked into giving the blessing to Jacob. Esau was enraged and Jacob had to run away to save his life. 

The writer of Hebrews referred to Esau as a profane (godless) person (Hebrews 12:16). Before their births, God knew that Esau’s descendants would become enemies of Israel for generations to come and He knew Jacob was a man of integrity. He had preordained that Jacob would be in the lineage of Jesus. Read the Biblical account of these two important Old Testament brothers in the Scripture below, followed by helpful commentary and video, audio Bible studies.

Story Of Jacob In The Bible

Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah and the first twins mentioned in the Bible. Even before they were born, they were struggling together in the womb of their mother. Their prenatal striving foreshadowed later conflict (Genesis 25:21-26).

The twins grew up very different. Jacob was “a quiet man, staying among the tents” and his mother’s favorite. Esau was “a skillful hunter, a man of the open country” and his father’s favorite. One day, Esau returned from hunting and desired some of the lentil stew that Jacob was cooking. Jacob offered to give his brother some stew in exchange for his birthright—the special honor that Esau possessed as the older son, which gave him the right to a double portion of his father’s inheritance. Esau put his temporary, physical needs over his God-given blessing and sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:27-34).

When the time came for Isaac to bestow his blessing on his sons, Jacob and his mother contrived to deceive Isaac into blessing Jacob in Esau’s place. When Esau found that his blessing had been given to Jacob, he threatened to kill his brother, and Jacob fled (Genesis 27:1 – 28:7). Years later, Jacob and Esau met and were reconciled (Genesis 33).

Both Jacob and Esau were fathers of nations. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28), and he became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Esau’s descendants were the Edomites (Genesis 36). Edom was a nation that plagued Israel in later years and was finally judged by God (Obadiah 1:1-21).

In the New Testament, Esau’s choice to sell his birthright is used as an example of ungodliness—a “godless” person who will put physical desires over spiritual blessings (Hebrews 12:15-17). By his negative example, Esau teaches us to hold fast to what is truly important, even if it means denying the appetites of the flesh. Both Old and New Testaments use the story of Jacob and Esau to illustrate God’s calling and election. God chose the younger Jacob to carry on the Abrahamic Covenant, while Esau was providentially excluded from the Messianic line (Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:11-14).

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