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Jacob Wrestling with the AngelGustave Doré, 1855 (Granger Collection, New York).

Jacob (pronounced /ˈdʒeɪkəb/; Hebrew: יַעֲקֹב‎, Standard Yaʿakov; Septuagint Greek: Ἰακώβ; "heel" or "leg-puller"), also known as Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Standard Yisraʾel, Isrāʾīl; Septuagint Greek: Ἰσραήλ; "persevere with God"[1]), was the third patriarch of the Jewish people, and ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel, named after ten of his twelve sons, as well as the two sons of his son Joseph.

In the Hebrew Bible he is the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and of Bethuel, and the twin brother of Esau. He had twelve sons and several daughters, of whom only one is known by name, by his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and their maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah. The children were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, daughter Dinah, Joseph, and Benjamin. Jacob had other daughters, whose names are not mentioned.[2][3] Before the birth of Benjamin, Jacob is renamed "Israel" by an angel, the name after which the modern nation of Israel is named.

As a result of a severe famine in Canaan, Jacob resettled his whole family in Egypt, in the Land of Goshen, at the time when his son Joseph was viceroy. Jacob died there 17 years later, and Joseph carried Jacob's remains to the land of Canaan, where he gave them stately burial in the same Cave of Machpelah as were buried Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Jacob's wife Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).


Accounts in the Hebrew Bible

This section is a summary of the Book of Genesis, chapters 25-50.

Jacob and Esau's birth

Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, were born to Isaac and Rebekah after 20 years of marriage, when Isaac was 60 (Genesis 25:20, 25:26). There are two opinions in the Midrash as to how old Rebekah was at the time of her marriage and, consequently, at the twins' birth. According to the traditional counting cited by Rashi, Isaac was 37 years old at the time of the Binding of Isaac, and news of Rebecca's birth reached Abraham immediately after that event (see Rashi on Gen. 22:20). Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah (Gen. 25:20), making Rebekah 3 years old at the time of her marriage. According to the second opinion, Isaac was 29 years old and Rebekah was 14 years old at the time of their marriage.[4] Another view is that Rebekah was 10 years old at the time.[citation needed] In any case, 20 years elapsed before they had children. Throughout that time, both Isaac and Rebecca prayed fervently to God for offspring. God eventually answered Isaac's prayers and Rebekah conceived.

Rebekah was extremely uncomfortable during her double pregnancy and went to inquire of God why she was suffering. The Midrash says that whenever she would pass a house of Torah study, Jacob would struggle to come out; whenever she would pass a house of idolatry, Esau would agitate to come out.[5] She received the prophecy that twins were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, and after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that the older would serve the younger; its statement "one people will be stronger than the other" has been taken to mean that the two nations would never gain power simultaneously: when one fell, the other would rise, and vice versa. Traditionally, Rebekah did not share the prophecy with her husband.

When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, the first to come out emerged red and hairy all over, with his heel grasped by the hand of the second to come out. Onlookers named the first עשו, Esau (`Esav or `Esaw, meaning either "rough", "sensibly felt", "handled", from Hebrew: עשה‎, `asah, "do" or "make";[6] or "completely developed", from Hebrew: עשוי‎, `assui[citation needed]). The second is named יעקב, Jacob (Ya`aqob or Ya`aqov, meaning "heel-catcher", "supplanter", "leg-puller", "he who follows upon the heels of one", from Hebrew: עקב‎, `aqab or `aqav, "seize by the heel", "circumvent", "restrain", a wordplay upon Hebrew: עקבה‎, `iqqebah or `iqqbah, "heel").[7]

The boys displayed very different natures as they matured. "Esau became a hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a simple man, a dweller in tents" (Genesis 25:27). Moreover, the attitudes of their parents toward them also differ: "Isaac loved Esau because game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob" (ibid., 25:28).

Sale of the birthright

The Hebrew Bible states that Esau, returning famished from the fields, begged Jacob to give him some of the stew. (Esau referred to the dish as, "that red, red stuff", giving rise to his nickname, Hebrew: אדום‎ (`Edom, meaning "Red").) Jacob offered to give Esau a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright (the right to be recognized as firstborn), and Esau agrees.

Jacob's deception of Isaac

Isaac Blessing Jacob, by Govert Flinck, 1638 (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam).

Much later, Isaac became blind in his old age and, uncertain of when he would die, decided to bestow the blessing of the firstborn upon Esau. He sent Esau out to the fields to trap and cook a piece of savory game for him, so that he could eat it and bless Esau.

Rebecca overheard this conversation and realized prophetically that Isaac's blessings would go to Jacob, since she was told before the twins' birth that the older son would serve the younger.[8] She therefore ordered Jacob to bring her two goats from the flock, which she cooked in the way Isaac loved, and had him bring them to his father in place of Esau.

When Jacob protested that his father would recognize the deception and curse him as soon as he felt him, since Esau was hairy and Jacob smooth-skinned, Rebecca said that the curse would be on her instead. Before she sent Jacob to his father, she dressed him in Esau's garments and laid goatskins on his arms and neck to simulate hairy skin.

Thus disguised, Jacob entered his father's room. Surprised to perceive that Esau was back so soon, Isaac asked how it could be that the hunt went so quickly. Jacob responded, "Because the Lord your God arranged it for me"; Rashi (on Genesis 27:21) says Isaac's suspicions were aroused because Esau never used the personal name of God. Isaac demanded that Jacob come close so he could feel him, but the goatskins felt just like Esau's hairy skin. Confused, Isaac exclaimed, "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau!" (27:22). Still trying to get at the truth, Isaac asked him point-blank, "Are you really my son Esau?" and Jacob answered simply, "I am" (which can be taken as "I am me", not "I am Esau"). Isaac proceeded to eat the food and to drink the wine that Jacob gave him, and then he blessed him with the dew of the heavens, the fatness of the earth, and rulership over many nations as well as his own brother.

Jacob had scarcely left the room when Esau returned from the hunt to prepare his game and receive the blessing. The realization that he has been deceived shocked Isaac, yet he acknowledged that Jacob had received the blessings as sworn, by adding, "Indeed, he will be [or remain] blessed!" (27:33). Rashi explained that Isaac smelled the heavenly scent of Gan Eden (Paradise) when Jacob entered his room and, in contrast, perceived Gehenna opening beneath Esau when the latter entered the room, showing him that he had been deceived all along by Esau's show of piety.[9]

Esau was heartbroken by the deception, and begged for his own blessing. Having made Jacob a ruler over his brothers, Isaac could only promise, "By your sword you shall live, but your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck" (27:39-40).

Esau was filled with hatred toward Jacob for taking away both his birthright and his blessing. He vowed to himself to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac died. When Rebecca heard about his murderous intentions[10], she ordered Jacob to travel to her brother Laban's house in Haran, until Esau's anger subsided. She convinced Isaac to send Jacob away by telling him that she despaired of him marrying a local girl from the idol-worshipping families of Canaan (as Esau had done). After Isaac sent Jacob away to find a wife, Esau realized that his own Canaanite wives were evil in his father's eyes, and he took a daughter of Isaac's half-brother Ishmael as another wife.

Jacob's ladder

Nearby Luz en route to Haran, Jacob experienced a vision of a ladder or staircase reaching into heaven with angels going up and down it, commonly referred to as "Jacob's ladder". From the top of the ladder he heard the voice of God, who repeated many of the blessings upon him.

According to Rashi, this ladder signified the exiles that the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Jewish Messiah: the angels that represented the exiles of Babylonia, Persia, and Greece each climbed up a certain number of steps, paralleling the years of the exile, before they "fell down"; but the angel representing the last exile, that of Rome or Edom, kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Jacob feared that his children would never be free of Esau's domination, but God assured him that at the End of Days, Edom too would come falling down.

Jacob awakened, and continued on his way to Haran in the morning, naming the place "Bethel", "God's house".

Jacob's marriages

Arriving in Haran, Jacob saw a well where the shepherds were gathering their flocks to water them, and met Laban's younger daughter Rachel, Jacob's first cousin; she was working as a shepherdess. He loved her immediately, and after spending a month with his relatives, asked for her hand in marriage in return for working seven years for Laban. Laban agreed to the arrangement. These seven years seemed to Jacob "but a few days, for the love he had for her"; but when they were complete and he asked for his wife, Laban deceived Jacob by switching Rachel's older sister, Leah, as the veiled bride.

According to the Midrash, both Jacob and Rachel suspected that Laban would pull such a trick; Laban was known as the "Aramean" (deceiver), and changed Jacob's wages ten times during his employ (Genesis 31:7). The couple therefore devised a series of signs by which Jacob could identify the veiled bride on his wedding night. But when Rachel saw her sister being taken out to the wedding canopy, her heart went out to her for the public shame Leah would suffer if she were exposed. Rachel therefore gave Leah the signs so that Jacob would not realize the switch.

In the morning, when the truth became known, Laban justified himself, saying that in his country it was unheard of to give the younger daughter before the older. However, he agreed to give Rachel in marriage as well if Jacob would work another seven years for her. After the week of wedding celebrations with Leah, Jacob married Rachel, and he continued to work for Laban for another seven years.

Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and Leah felt hated. God opened Leah's womb and she gave birth to four sons rapidly: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel, however, remained barren. Following the example of Sarah, who gave her handmaid to Abraham after years of infertility, Rachel gave Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah, in marriage, so that Rachel could raise children through her. Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Naphtali. Seeing that she had left off childbearing temporarily, Leah then gave her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob in marriage so that Leah could raise more children through her. Zilpah gave birth to Gad and Asher. (According to some commentators, Bilhah and Zilpah were younger daughters of Laban.)[citation needed] Afterwards, Leah became fertile again and gave birth to Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. God remembered Rachel, who gave birth to Joseph. If pregnancies of different marriages overlapped, the twelve births could have occurred within seven years.

After Joseph was born, Jacob decided to return home to his parents. Laban was reluctant to release him, as God had blessed his flock on account of Jacob. Laban asked what he could pay Jacob, and Jacob proposed that all the spotted, speckled, and brown goats and sheep of Laban's flock, at any given moment, would be his wages. Jacob placed peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut within the flocks' watering holes or troughs, an action he later attributes to a dream. The text suggests that Jacob performed breeding experiments over the years to make his own flocks both more abundant and stronger than Laban's, that Laban responded by repeatedly reinterpreting the terms of Jacob's wages, and that the breeding favored Jacob regardless of Laban's pronouncements. Thus Jacob's herds increased and he became very wealthy.

As time passed, Laban's sons noticed that Jacob was taking the better part of their flocks, and Laban's friendly attitude towards Jacob began to change. God told Jacob that he should leave, and he and his wives and children did so without informing Laban. Before they left, Rachel stole the teraphim, considered to be household idols, from Laban's house.

In a rage, Laban pursued Jacob for seven days. The night before he caught up to him, God appeared to Laban in a dream and warned him not to say anything good or bad to Jacob. When the two met, Laban played the part of the injured father-in-law and also demanded his teraphim back. Knowing nothing about Rachel's theft, Jacob told Laban that whoever stole them should die, and stood aside to let him search. When Laban reached Rachel's tent, she hid the teraphim by sitting on them and stating she could not get up because she was menstruating; this event was considered by the Biblical audience as conveying significant defilement upon the teraphim.[citation needed] Jacob and Laban then parted from each other with a pact to preserve the peace between them. Laban returned to his home and Jacob continued on his way.

Journey back to Canaan

Jacob struggles with the angel, by Rembrandt (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin).

As Jacob neared the land of Canaan, he sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau. They returned with the news that Esau was coming to meet Jacob with an army of 400 men. With great apprehension, Jacob prepared for the worst. He engaged in earnest prayer to God, then sent on before him a tribute of flocks and herds to Esau, "a present to my lord Esau from thy servant Jacob".

Jacob then transported his family and flocks across the ford Jabbok by night, then recrossed back to send over his possessions, being left alone in communion with God. There, a mysterious being appeared ("man", Genesis 32:24, 28; or "God", Genesis 32:28, 30, Hosea 12:3, 5; or "angel", Hosea 12:4), and the two wrestled until daybreak. When the being saw that he did not overpower Jacob, he touched Jacob on the sinew of his thigh (the gid hanasheh, גיד הנשה), and as a result, Jacob developed a limp (Genesis 32:31). Because of this, "to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket" (Genesis 32:32). This incident is the source of the mitzvah of porging.[11]

Jacob then demanded a blessing, and the being declared that from then on, Jacob would be called יִשְׂרָאֵל, Israel (Yisra`el, meaning "one that struggled with the divine angel" (Josephus), "one who has prevailed with God" (Rashi), "a man seeing God" (Whiston), "he will rule as God" (Strong), or "a prince with God" (Morris), from Hebrew: שרה‎, "prevail", "have power as a prince").[12] Jacob asked the being's name, but he refused to answer. Afterwards Jacob named the place Penuel (Penuw`el, Peniy`el, meaning "face of God"),[13] saying "I have seen God face to face and lived."

Because the terminology is ambiguous ("el" in Yisra`el) and inconsistent, and because this being refused to reveal his name, there are varying views as to whether he was a man, an angel, or God. Josephus uses only the terms "angel", "divine angel", and "angel of God", describing the struggle as no small victory. According to Rashi, the being was the guardian angel of Esau himself, sent to destroy Jacob before he could return to the land of Canaan. Trachtenberg theorized that the being refused to identify itself for fear that, if its secret name was known, it would be conjurable by incantations.[14] Literal Christian interpreters like Henry M. Morris say that the stranger was "God Himself and, therefore, Christ in His preincarnate state", citing Jacob's own evaluation and the name he assumed thereafter, "one who fights victoriously with God", and adding that God had appeared in the human form of the Angel of the LORD to eat a meal with Abraham in Genesis 18.[15]

In the morning, Jacob assembled his 4 wives and 11 sons, placing the maidservants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. Some commentators cite this placement as proof that Jacob continued to favor Joseph over Leah's children, as presumably the rear position would have been safer from a frontal assault by Esau, which Jacob feared. Jacob himself took the foremost position. Esau's spirit of revenge, however, was apparently appeased by Jacob's bounteous gifts of camels, goats and flocks. Their reunion was an emotional one.

Esau offered to accompany them on their way back to Israel, but Jacob protested that his children were still young and tender (born 6 to 13 years prior in the narrative); Jacob suggested eventually catching up with Esau at Mount Seir. According to the Sages, this was a prophetic reference to the End of Days, when Jacob's descendants will come to Mount Seir, the home of Edom, to deliver judgment against Esau's descendants for persecuting them throughout the millennia (see Obadiah 1:21). Jacob actually diverted himself to Succoth and was not recorded as rejoining Esau until, at Machpelah, the two bury their father Isaac, who lived to 180 and was 60 years older than them.

Jacob then arrived in Shechem, where he bought a parcel of land, now identified as Joseph's Tomb. In Shechem, Jacob's daughter Dinah was kidnapped and raped by the ruler's son, who desired to marry the girl. Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, agreed in Jacob's name to permit the marriage as long as all the men of Shechem first circumcised themselves, ostensibly to unite the children of Jacob in Abraham's covenant of familial harmony. On the third day after the circumcisions, when all the men of Shechem were still in pain, Simeon and Levi put them all to death by the sword and rescued their sister Dinah, and their brothers plundered the property, women, and children. Jacob condemned this act, saying "You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land."[16] He later rebuked his two sons for their anger in his deathbed blessing (Genesis 49:5-7).

Jacob returned to Bethel, where he had another vision of blessing. Although the death of Rebecca, Jacob's mother, is not explicitly recorded in the Bible, Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, died and was buried at Bethel, at a place that Jacob calls Allon Bachuth (אלון בכות), "Oak of Weepings" (Genesis 35:8). According to the Midrash,[17] the plural form of the word "weeping" indicates the double sorrow that Rebecca also died at this time.

Jacob then made a further move while Rachel was pregnant; near Bethlehem, Rachel went into labor and died as she gave birth to her second son, Benjamin (Jacob's twelfth son). Jacob buried her and erected a monument over her grave. Rachel's Tomb, just outside Bethlehem, remains a popular site for pilgrimages and prayers to this day. Jacob then settled in Migdal Eder, where his firstborn, Reuben, slept with Rachel's servant Bilhah; Jacob's response was not given at the time, but he did condemn Reuben for it later, in his deathbed blessing. Jacob was finally reunited with his father Isaac in Mamre (outside Hebron).

When Isaac died at the age of 180, Jacob and Esau buried him in the Cave of the Patriarchs, which Abraham had purchased as a family burial plot. At this point in the Biblical narrative, two genealogies of Esau's family appear under the headings "the generations of Esau". A conservative interpretation is that, at Isaac's burial, Jacob obtained the records of Esau, who had been married 80 years prior, and incorporated them into his own family records, and that Moses augmented and published them.[18]

Jacob in Egypt

When Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers sold him to traders heading to Egypt, then-capital of the slave trade. Jacob was told that Joseph was killed and Jacob was deeply grieved by the loss of his favorite son, and refused to be comforted. In fact Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh's chief butcher. Resisting the advances of his master's wife, he was accused of trying to rape her, and was thrown into prison.

After awhile, the Pharaoh of Egypt had two troubling dreams, and his butler recalled having met Joseph in prison, and told Pharaoh of his ability to interpret dreams. Joseph was called from prison and interpreted the dreams as prophesying seven years each of abundance and famine. Pharaoh was so impressed that he made Joseph viceroy (second in command) over Egypt and the manager of Egypt's grain stores, due to the prophecy of famine. When the prophesied famine struck throughout the known world, Joseph sold stored grain to men of all nations.

When famine fell on Canaan, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, the youngest, Benjamin, remaining with Jacob in Canaan.[19] Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Joseph received them roughly and accused them of being spies, and sent them back to their father, demanding that they return with Benjamin. And so the brothers returned to Jacob in Canaan, with Reuben lamenting that they had not listened to him and spared the life of their brother Joseph.[20]

Jacob sent his sons again to Egypt for grain. As Joseph had commanded them not to appear before him again without Benjamin, Jacob was compelled to let Benjamin go with them. And they were amazed when this time the viceroy received them kindly, and took them to feast in his own house, inquiring after their father and their youngest brother Benjamin.[21] But while they feasted, Joseph gave orders to his servants to fill their sacks with wheat and put his silver goblet in Benjamin's sack. On the following morning the brothers departed, but before they had gone far a messenger overtook them, accusing them of stealing the goblet. And when the messenger searched their sacks he found the goblet in Benjamin's sack, and ordered them to return. In front of Joseph, whom he still did not know, Judah pleaded that Benjamin be allowed to return to his father, and he himself kept in Benjamin's place.[22]

Joseph identified by his brothers by Charles Thévenin.

Overcome by Judah's appeal, Joseph disclosed himself to his brothers, assuring them that in treating him as they did they had been carrying out the will of God. He then urged them to return home quickly and bring all their families to Egypt, to live in the land of Goshen. And Pharaoh, when he heard of this, rejoiced, and gave to Joseph and his brothers the best that Egypt could offer.[23]

And so Jacob and all his family came to Egypt, seventy persons plus their wives,[24] and all, except for Joseph, his two sons and one grandchild, were settled in the Land of Goshen.[25] Joseph presented Jacob and five of his brothers to Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.[26]

The blessing of Jacob

Jacob blessing his grandchildren, Ephraim and Manasseh, in the presence of Joseph and their mother Asenath by Mattia Preti, 17th century (Whitfield Fine Art Gallery).

When Jacob felt that his days were near, he blessed Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, giving them equal inheritance with his own sons. But despite protests by Joseph, Jacob blessed Ephraim the younger first above Manasseh.[27] He also gave his blessing upon all his sons. (Genesis 49) Though he blessed them in order by their age, the blessing he gave Joseph was greater than the others:

'Joseph is a fruitful tree by a spring, whose branches climb over the wall. The archers savagely attacked him, shooting and assailing him fiercely, but Joseph's bow remained unfailing and his arms were tireless by the power of the Strong One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd of Israel, by the God of your father-so may he help you! By God Almighty-so may he bless you with the blessings of heaven above, and the blessings of the deep that lies below! The blessings of breast and womb and the blessings of your father are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains and the bounty of the everlasting hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of him who was prince among his brothers.'

Jacob adopted Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own. Anticipating his death, he blessed each of his 12 sons with varying blessings he deemed appropriate. It has been understood that Judah, the fourth born, received the primary blessing, due to Reuben's incest and Simeon's and Levi's betrayal.


After being settled for 17 years in Egypt, when Jacob felt his end was approaching he called Joseph to him, and made him swear to bury him not in Egypt, but with his fathers.[28]

When Jacob died, at the age of 147,[29] Joseph had Jacob's body embalmed and, with Pharaoh's permission, taken back to Canaan, with the twelve sons carrying their father's coffin and many Egyptian officials accompanying them,[30] and Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham had bought, and in which Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rachel, and Jacob's first wife Leah were buried.

Sons of Jacob

Jacob's wives had twelve sons and one daughter: Reuben (Genesis 29:32), Simeon (Genesis 29:33), Levi (Genesis 29:34), Judah (Genesis 29:35), Dan (Genesis 30:5), Naphtali (Genesis 30:7), Gad (Genesis 30:10), Asher (Genesis 30:12), Issachar (Genesis 30:17), Zebulun (Genesis 30:19), Dinah (Genesis 30:21), Joseph (Genesis 30:23), and Benjamin (Genesis 35:18).

The offspring of Jacob's sons became the twelve tribes of Israel following the Exodus, when the Israelites conquered and settled in the Land of Israel.

Jewish teachings

According to the classic Jewish texts, Jacob, as the third and last patriarch, lives a life that parallels the descent of his offspring, the Jewish people, into the darkness of exile. In contrast to Abraham — who illuminates the world with knowledge of God and earns the respect of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan — and Isaac — who continues his father's teachings and also lives in relative harmony with his neighbors —

Apocalyptic literature

The Apocalyptic literature includes many ancient texts with narratives about Jacob, many times with details different from Genesis. The more important are the book of Jubilees and the Book of Biblical Antiquities. Jacob is also the protagonist of the Testament of Jacob, of the Ladder of Jacob and of the Prayer of Joseph, which interpret the experience of this Patriarch in the context of merkabah mysticism.

Eastern Christianity

Russian Orthodox Icon of St. Jacob, 18th century (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Russia).

The Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite see Jacob's dream as a prophecy of the Incarnation of the Logos, whereby Jacob's ladder is understood as a symbol of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), who, according to Orthodox theology, united heaven and earth in her womb. The biblical account of this vision (Genesis 28:10-17) is one of the standard Old Testament readings at Vespers on Great Feasts of the Theotokos.

The account of Jacob's blessing of Joseph's sons is also seen as prophetic: when he crosses his arms to bestow his patriarchal blessing (Genesis 48:8-20), this is seen as a foreshadowing of the blessings Christians believe resulted from Jesus' death on the cross.


In Arabic, Jacob is known as Ya`qūb ( يعقوب). He is revered as a prophet who received inspiration from God. The Qur'an does not give the details of Jacob’s life. Isra'il is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew Yisrael. God perfected his favor on Jacob and his posterity as he perfected his favor on Abraham and Isaac (12:6). Jacob was a man of might and vision (38:45) and was chosen by God to preach the Message. The Qur'an stresses that worshiping and bowing to the One true God was the main legacy of Jacob Kaaihue and his fathers (2:132-133). Salvation, according to the Qur'an, hinges upon this legacy rather than being a Jew or Christian (See Qur'an 2:130-141).

According to the Qur'an, Jacob was of the company of the Elect and the Good (38:47, 21:75). Ya`qūb is a name that is accepted in Muslim community showing the value attributed to Jacob.

See also

  • History of ancient Israel and Judah
  • Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, the name given to at least three different major paintings
  • During the Second World War the French writer and anti-Nazi resistance fighter André Malraux worked on a long novel, The Struggle Against the Angel, the manuscript of which was destroyed by the Gestapo upon his capture in 1944. The name was apparently inspired by the Jacob story. A surviving opening book to The Struggle Against the Angel, named The Walnut Trees of Altenburg, was published after the war.


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 381. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Jacob"
  2. ^ See Genesis 37:35
  3. ^ Enumerations of the twelve tribes vary. Because Jacob effectively adopted two of his grandsons by Joseph and Asenath, namely Ephraim and Manasseh, the two grandsons were often substituted for the Tribe of Joseph, yielding thirteen tribes, or twelve if Levi is set apart.
  4. ^ Torah Insights: Parshat Toldot.
  5. ^ Bereshit Rabbah 63:6.
  6. ^ Strong's Concordance 6215, 6213.
  7. ^ Strong's Concordance 3290, 6117.
  8. ^ Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (1993). The Chumash. Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, p. 135.
  9. ^ Pirkei d'Rav Kahana, quoted in Scherman, p. 139.
  10. ^ Genesis 27:42
  11. ^ Eisenstein, Judah David (1901-1906). "Porging". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York City. LCCN:16014703. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  12. ^ Strong's Concordance 3478, 8280.
  13. ^ Strong's Concordance 6439.
  14. ^ Trachtenberg 1939, p. 80.
  15. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. pp. 337, 499–502. 
  16. ^ Genesis 34:30
  17. ^ Bereshit Rabbah 81:5.
  18. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. pp. 524–525. 
  19. ^ Genesis 41:53-57
  20. ^ Genesis 42
  21. ^ Genesis 43:47
  22. ^ Genesis 44
  23. ^ Genesis 45
  24. ^ Genesis 46:26-27
  25. ^ Genesis 46:28
  26. ^ Genesis 47:1-11
  27. ^ Genesis 48:1-22
  28. ^ Genesis 47:28-31
  29. ^ Genesis 47:28
  30. ^ Genesis 50:1-14

Further reading

  • Trachtenberg, Joshua (1939), Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion, New York: Behrman's Jewish Book house 

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Arthur Hugh Clough
Information about this edition

My sons, and ye the children of my sons,
Jacob your father goes upon his way,
His pilgrimage is being accomplished.
Come near and hear him ere his words are o’er.
Not as my father’s or his father’s days,
As Isaac’s days or Abraham’s, have been mine;
Not as the days of those that in the field
Walked at the eventide to meditate,
And haply, to the tent returning, found
Angels at nightfall waiting at their door.
They communed, Israel wrestled with the Lord.
No, not as Abraham’s or as Isaac’s days,
My sons, have been Jacob your father’s days,
Evil and few, attaining not to theirs
In number, and in worth inferior much.
As a man with his friend, walked they with God,
In His abiding presence they abode,
And all their acts were open to His face.
But I have had to force mine eyes away,
To lose, almost to shun, the thoughts I loved,
To bend down to the work, to bare the breast,
And struggle, feet and hands, with enemies;
To buffet and to battle with hard men,
With men of selfishness and violence;
To watch by day, and calculate by night,
To plot and think of plots, and through a land
Ambushed with guile, and with strong foes beset,
To win with art safe wisdom’s peaceful way.
Alas! I know, and from the onset knew,
The first-born faith, the singleness of soul,
The antique pure simplicity with which
God and good angels communed undispleased,
Is not; it shall not any more be said,
That of a blameless and a holy kind,
The chosen race, the seed of promise, comes.
The royal, high prerogatives, the dower
Of innocence and perfectness of life,
Pass not unto my children from their sire,
As unto me they came of mine; they fit
Neither to Jacob nor to Jacob’s race.
Think ye, my sons, in this extreme old age
And in this failing breath, that I forget
How on the day when from my father’s door,
In bitterness and ruefulness of heart,
I from my parents set my face, and felt
I never more again should look on theirs,
How on that day I seemed unto myself
Another Adam from his home cast out,
And driven abroad unto a barren land
Cursed for his sake, and mocking still with thorns
And briers that labour and that sweat of brow
He still must spend to live? Sick of my days,
I wished not life, but cried out, Let me die;
But at Luz God came to me; in my heart
He put a better mind, and showed me how,
While we discern it not, and least believe,
On stairs invisible betwixt His heaven
And our unholy, sinful, toilsome earth
Celestial messengers of loftiest good
Upward and downward pass continually.
Many, since I upon the field of Luz
Set up the stone I slept on, unto God,
Many have been the troubles of my life;
Sins in the field and sorrows in the tent,
In mine own household anguish and despair,
And gall and wormwood mingled with my love.
The time would fail me should I seek to tell
Of a child wronged and cruelly revenged
(Accursed was that anger, it was fierce,
That wrath, for it was cruel); or of strife
And jealousy and cowardice, with lies
Mocking a father’s misery; deeds of blood,
Pollutions, sicknesses, and sudden deaths.
These many things against me many times,
The ploughers have ploughed deep upon my back,
And made deep furrows; blessed be His name
Who hath delivered Jacob out of all,
And left within his spirit hope of good.

Come near to me, my sons: your father goes,
The hour of his departure draweth nigh.
Ah me! this eager rivalry of life,
This cruel conflict for pre-eminence,
This keen supplanting of the dearest kin,
Quick seizure and fast unrelaxing hold
Of vantage-place; the stony hard resolve,
The chase, the competition, and the craft
Which seems to be the poison of our life,
And yet is the condition of our life!
To have done things on which the eye with shame
Looks back, the closed hand clutching still the prize!
Alas! what of all these things shall I say?
Take me away unto Thy sleep, O God!
I thank thee it is over, yet I think
It was a work appointed me of Thee.
How is it? I have striven all my days
To do my duty, to my house and hearth,
And to the purpose of my father’s race,
Yet is my heart therewith not satisfied.

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JACOB (Hebrew ya`agob, derived, according to Gen. xxv. 26, xxvii. 36, from a root meaning "to seize the heel" or "supplant"), son of Isaac and Rebekah in the Biblical narrative, and the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob and his twin brother Esau are the eponyms of the Israelites and Edomites. It was said of them that they would be two nations, and that the elder would serve the younger. Esau was born first, but lost his superiority by relinquishing his birthright, and Jacob by an act of deceit gained the paternal blessing intended for Esau (Gen. xxvii., J and E).' The popular view regarding Israel and Edom is expressed when the story makes Jacob a tent-dweller, and Esau a hunter, a man of the field. But whilst Esau married among the Canaanite "daughters of the land" (P in xxvi. 34; xxviii. 8 seq.), Jacob was sent, or (according to a variant tradition) fled from Beer-sheba, to take a wife from among his Syrian kinsfolk at Haran. On the way he received a revelation at Bethel ("house of God") promising to him and to his descendants the whole extent of the land. The beautiful story of Jacob's fortunes at Haran is among the best examples of Hebrew narrative: how he served seven years for Rachel, "and they seemed a few days for the love he had to her," and was tricked by receiving the elder sister Leah, and how he served yet another seven years, and at last won his love. The patriarch's increasing wealth caused him to incur the jealousy of his father-in-law, Laban, and he was forced to flee in secret with his family. They were overtaken at Gilead, 2 whose name (interpreted "heap of witness") is explained by the covenant into which Jacob and Laban entered (xxxi. 47 sqq.). Passing Mahanaim ("camps"), where he saw the camps of God, Jacob sent to Esau with friendly overtures. At the Jabbok he wrestled with a divine being and prevailed (cf. Hos. xii. 3 sqq.), hence he called the place Peniel or Penuel ("the face of God"), and received the new name Israel. He then effected an unexpected reconciliation with Esau, passed to Succoth, where he built "booths" for his cattle (hence its name), and reached Shechem. Here he purchased ground from the clan Hamor (cf. Judg. ix. 28), and erected an altar to "God (El) the God of Israel." This was the scene of the rape of Dinah and of the attack of Simeon and Levi which led to their ruin (xxxiv.; see DAN, Levites, Simeon). Thence Jacob went down south to Bethel, where he received a divine revelation (P), similar to that recorded by the earlier narrator (J), and was called Israel (xxxv. 9-13, 15). Here Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, on the way to Ephrath. Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin, and further south Reuben was guilty of a grave offence (cf. xlix. 4). According to P, Jacob came to Hebron, and it was at this juncture that Jacob and Esau separated (a second time) and the latter removed to Mount Seir (xxxvi. 6 sqq.; cf. the parallel in xiii. 5 sqq.). Compelled by circumstances, described with much fullness and vividness, Jacob ultimately migrated to Egypt, receiving on the way the promise that God would make of him a great nation, which should come again out of Egypt (see Joseph). After an interview with the Pharaoh (recorded only by P, xlvii. 5 - i I), he dwelt with his sons in the land of Goshen, and as his death drew near pronounced a formal benediction upon the two sons of Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim), intentionally exalting the younger. Then he summoned all the "sons" to gather round his bed, and told them "what shall befall in the latter days" (xlix.). He died at the age of 147 (so P), and permission was given to carry his body to Canaan to be buried.

1 For the symbols J, E, P, as regards the sources of the book of Genesis, see Genesis; Bible: Old Test. Criticism. 2 Since it is some 300 m. from Haran to Gilead it is probable that Laban's home, only seven days' journey distant, was nearer Gilead than the current tradition allows (Gen. xxxi. 22 sqq.).

These narratives are full of much valuable evidence regarding marriage customs, pastoral life and duties, popular beliefs and traditions, and are evidently typical of what was currently retailed. Their historical value has been variously estimated. The name existed long before the traditional date of Jacob, and the Egyptian phonetic equivalent of Jacob-el (cf.Isra-el, Ishma-el) appears to be the name of a district of central Palestine (or possibly east of Jordon) about i 50o B.C. But the stories in their present form are very much later. The close relation between Jacob and Aramaeans confirms the view that some of the tribes of Israel were partly of Aramaean origin; his entrance into Palestine from beyond the Jordan is parallel to Joshua's invasion at the head of the Israelites; and his previous journey from the south finds independent support in traditions of another distinct movement from this quarter. Consequently, it would appear that these extremely elevated and richly developed narratives of Jacob-Israel embody, among a number of other features, a recollection of two distinct traditions of migration which became fused among the Israelites. See further GENESIS; JEWS. (S. A. C.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





From Late Latin Iacobus < Ancient Greek Ἰάκωβος < Hebrew יעקב (ya'aqov, heel-grabber) < עקב (‘akev, heel of the foot). Cognate with James of the New Testament.


  • IPA: /ˈdʒeɪkəb/, SAMPA: /"dZeIk@b/

Proper noun




  1. (Biblical) One of the sons of Isaac and Rebecca, and twin brother of Esau; father of the Israelites.
  2. A male given name.
  3. A breed of multihorned sheep.


  • (father of the Israelites): Israel

Derived terms

Related terms


  • 1611, King James Version of the Bible (Authorized Version), Genesis 25:27
    And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents
  • 1927 Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises: Chapter III:
    "Georgette. How are you called?" / "Jacob." / "That's a Flemish name." / "American too." / "You're not a Flamand?" / "No, American." / "Good, I detest Flamands."
    - - -
    Brett smiled at him. "I've promised to dance this with Jacob," she laughed. "You've a hell of a biblical name, Jake."



Alternative spellings

Proper noun


  1. A male given name, equivalent to English Jacob and James.

Related terms


Proper noun


  1. A male given name, equivalent to English Jacob and James.

Related terms

  • Jaap, Japie, Co, Coos, Cobus, Ko, Koos, Koosje, Kobus, Jeep, Japik, Kobbe, Sjimmie, Jim, Jimmy


Proper noun


  1. (Biblical) Jacob.
  2. A male given name.

Related terms


Alternative spellings

Proper noun


  1. A male given name, equivalent to English Jacob and James.

Related terms

  • Jakobchen, Köb, Köbes, Koeeb, Jäggi, Joggi


Proper noun


  1. A male given name, a spelling variant of Jakob.


Proper noun

Jacob m.

  1. (Biblical) Jacob


  • 1602La Santa Biblia (antigua versión de Casiodoro de Reina), rev., Génesis 25:27
    Y crecieron los niños, y Esaú fué diestro en la caza, hombre del campo: Jacob empero era varón quieto, que habitaba en tiendas.

Related terms


Proper noun


  1. A male given name, a spelling variant of Jakob.

Jacob Bowles Awkward

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: one who follows on another's heels; supplanter, (Gen 25:26; Gen 27:36; Hos 12:2ff)

The second born of the twin sons of Isaac by Rebekah. He was born probably at Lahai-roi, when his father was fifty-nine and Abraham one hundred and fifty-nine years old.

Like his father, he was of a quiet and gentle disposition, and when he grew up followed the life of a shepherd, while his brother Esau became an enterprising hunter. His dealing with Esau, however, showed much mean selfishness and cunning (Gen 25:29-34).

When Isaac was about 160 years of age, Jacob and his mother conspired to deceive the aged patriarch (Gen. 27), with the view of procuring the transfer of the birthright to himself. The birthright secured to him who possessed it (1) superior rank in his family (Gen 49:3); (2) a double portion of the paternal inheritance (Deut 21:17); (3) the priestly office in the family (Num 8:17-19); and (4) the promise of the Seed in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed (Gen 22:18).

Soon after his acquisition of his father's blessing (Gen. 27), Jacob became conscious of his guilt; and afraid of the anger of Esau, at the suggestion of Rebekah, Isaac sent him away to Haran, 400 miles or more, to find a wife among his cousins, the family of Laban, the Syrian (28). There he met with Rachel (29). Laban would not consent to give him his daughter in marriage till he had served seven years; but to Jacob these years "seemed but a few days, for the love he had to her." But when the seven years were expired, Laban craftily deceived Jacob, and gave him his daughter Leah. Other seven years of service had to be completed probably before he obtained the beloved Rachel. But "life-long sorrow, disgrace, and trials, in the retributive providence of God, followed as a consequence of this double union."

At the close of the fourteen years of service, Jacob desired to return to his parents, but at the entreaty of Laban he tarried yet six years with him, tending his flocks (31:41). He then set out with his family and property "to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 31). Laban was angry when he heard that Jacob had set out on his journey, and pursued after him, overtaking him in seven days. The meeting was of a painful kind. After much recrimination and reproach directed against Jacob, Laban is at length pacified, and taking an affectionate farewell of his daughters, returns to his home in Padanaram. And now all connection of the Israelites with Mesopotamia is at an end.

Soon after parting with Laban he is met by a company of angels, as if to greet him on his return and welcome him back to the Land of Promise (32:1, 2). He called the name of the place Mahanaim, i.e., "the double camp," probably his own camp and that of the angels. The vision of angels was the counterpart of that he had formerly seen at Bethel, when, twenty years before, the weary, solitary traveller, on his way to Padan-aram, saw the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder whose top reached to heaven (28:12).

He now hears with dismay of the approach of his brother Esau with a band of 400 men to meet him. In great agony of mind he prepares for the worst. He feels that he must now depend only on God, and he betakes himself to him in earnest prayer, and sends on before him a munificent present to Esau, "a present to my lord Esau from thy servant Jacob." Jacob's family were then transported across the Jabbok; but he himself remained behind, spending the night in communion with God. While thus engaged, there appeared one in the form of a man who wrestled with him. In this mysterious contest Jacob prevailed, and as a memorial of it his name was changed to Israel (wrestler with God); and the place where this occured he called Peniel, "for", said he, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (32:25-31).

After this anxious night, Jacob went on his way, halting, mysteriously weakened by the conflict, but strong in the assurance of the divine favour. Esau came forth and met him; but his spirit of revenge was appeased, and the brothers met as friends, and during the remainder of their lives they maintained friendly relations. After a brief sojourn at Succoth, Jacob moved forward and pitched his tent near Shechem, 33:18; but at length, under divine directions, he moved to Bethel, where he made an altar unto God (35:6,7), and where God appeared to him and renewed the Abrahamic covenant. While journeying from Bethel to Ephrath (the Canaanitish name of Bethlehem), Rachel died in giving birth to her second son Benjamin (35:16-20), fifteen or sixteen years after the birth of Joseph. He then reached the old family residence at Mamre, to wait on the dying bed of his father Isaac. The complete reconciliation between Esau and Jacob was shown by their uniting in the burial of the patriarch (35:27-29).

Jacob was soon after this deeply grieved by the loss of his beloved son Joseph through the jealousy of his brothers (37:33). Then follows the story of the famine, and the successive goings down into Egypt to buy corn (42), which led to the discovery of the long-lost Joseph, and the patriarch's going down with all his household, numbering about seventy souls (Ex 1:5; Deut 10:22; Acts 7:14), to sojourn in the land of Goshen. Here Jacob, "after being strangely tossed about on a very rough ocean, found at last a tranquil harbour, where all the best affections of his nature were gently exercised and largely unfolded" (Gen. 48). At length the end of his checkered course draws nigh, and he summons his sons to his bedside that he may bless them. Among his last words he repeats the story of Rachel's death, although forty years had passed away since that event took place, as tenderly as if it had happened only yesterday; and when "he had made an end of charging his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost" (49:33). His body was embalmed and carried with great pomp into the land of Canaan, and buried beside his wife Leah in the cave of Machpelah, according to his dying charge. There, probably, his embalmed body remains to this day (50:1-13). (See Hebron.)

The history of Jacob is referred to by the prophets Hosea (12:3, 4, 12) and Malachi (1:2). In Mic 1:5 the name is a poetic synonym for Israel, the kingdom of the ten tribes. There are, besides the mention of his name along with those of the other patriarchs, distinct references to events of his life in Paul's epistles (Rom 9:11-13; Heb 12:16; 11:21). See references to his vision at Bethel and his possession of land at Shechem in Jn 1:51; 4:5, 12; also to the famine which was the occasion of his going down into Egypt in Acts 7:12 (See Luz, Bethel.)

This article needs to be merged with Jacob (Catholic Encyclopedia).
This article needs to be merged with JACOB (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This person is part of the genealogy of Jesus.
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Facts about JacobRDF feed
Child of Isaac  +, and Rebekah  +
Married to Rachel  +, and Leah  +
Parent of Benjamin  +, and Joseph  +


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Sex: Male
Father: Isaac
Mother: Rebekah
Spouse/Partner: Leah
2nd Spouse: Rachel
3rd Spouse: Bilhah
4th Spouse: Zilpah



See Wikipedia article Jacob

Name variations





Book of Genesis

External links

This article uses material from the "Jacob" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

[[File:|250px|right|thumb|Jacob Wrestling with the Angel – Gustave Doré, 1855 (Granger Collection, New York).]]

Jacob is in the bible. He was a very blessed person.

Jacob had an older brother. He had a mother named Rebecca and a father named Issac. Rebecca liked Jacob the best. One day, Jacob's older brother Esau came home very hungry. According to the Talmud, immediately after Abraham died, Jacob prepared a lentil stew as a traditional mourner's meal for his father, Isaac.[1] The Hebrew Bible says that Esau, who was very hungry, begged Jacob to give him some of the stew. (Esau called the dish, "that red, red stuff", which is why he is called Edom, Hebrew: אדום (`Edom, meaning "Red").) Jacob said, "If you give me your birthright I will give you some stew." Esau agreed. Soon, Issac became almost blind. Rebecca tricked Issac into giving Jacob the blessing. Jacob's brother got angry, so Rebecca sent Jacob away.

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  1. Bava Batra 16b.

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