Holman Bible Dictionary
(jay' cuhb) Personal name built on the Hebrew noun for “heel” meaning, “he grasps the heel” or “he cheats, supplants” (Genesis 25:26 ; Genesis 27:36 ). Original ancestor of the nation of Israel and father of the twelve ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 25:1 —Exodus 25:1—1:5 ). He was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, younger twin brother of Esau, and husband of Leah and Rachel (Genesis 25:21-26 ; Genesis 29:21-30 ). God changed his name to Israel (Genesis 32:28 ; Genesis 49:2 ). Texts from Ugarit and Assyria have persons named Jacob, but these are not Israelites. Their name is often connected with one of their gods, becoming Jacob-el or Jacob-baal. In such a form, it probably means “may El protect.” The Old Testament knows only one Jacob. No one else received the patriarch's name.
Between the Testaments other Jews received the name Jacob; the one New Testament example is the father of Joseph and thus the earthly grandfather of Jesus (Matthew 1:16 ). Jacob stands as a strong witness that the God who made all the people of the earth also worked in Israel's history, calling the patriarchs to a destiny He would fulfill even when they least deserved it.
Jacob in Genesis Jacob's story occupies half the Book of Genesis. Living up to his name, Jacob bargained for Esau's birthright. See Birthright . Parental partiality fostered continuing hostility between Esau, the hunter beloved of his father, and Jacob, the quiet, settled, integrated person
favored by his mother. The tensions between brothers seemed to threaten the fulfillment of the divine promise.
Esau's thoughtlessness lost him his birthright and allowed Jacob to have material superiority. Nevertheless, Isaac intended to bestow the blessing of the firstborn upon Esau. The oracle Rebekah received (Genesis 25:23 ) probably encouraged her to counter Isaac's will and to gain the blessing for her favorite son by fraud. The blessing apparently conveyed the status of head of family apart from the status of heir. To his crass lies and deception, Jacob even approached blasphemy, using God's name to bolster his cause, “Because the Lord your God granted me success” (Genesis 27:20 NRSV). The father's blindness deepened the pathos. The blind father pronounced the blessing he could never recall. Jacob became the bearer of God's promises and the inheritor of Canaan. Esau, too, received a blessing, but a lesser one. He must serve Jacob and live in the less fertile land of Edom, but his day would come ( Genesis 27:40 ). The split between brothers became permanent. Rebekah had to arrange for Jacob to flee to her home in Paddan-aram to escape Esau's wrath (Genesis 27:46-28:1 ).
At age 40, Jacob fled his home to begin his life as an individual. Suddenly, a lonely night in Bethel, interrupted by a vision from God, brought reality home. Life had to include wrestling with God and assuming responsibility as the heir of God's promises to Abraham (Genesis 28:10-22 ). Jacob made an oath, binding himself to God. Here is the center of Jacob's story; all else must be read in light of the Bethel experience.
In Aram with his mother's family, the deceiver Jacob met deception. Laban tricked him into marrying poor Leah, the elder daughter, before he got his beloved Rachel, the younger. Fourteen years he labored for his wives (Genesis 29:1-30 ). Six more years of labor let Jacob return the deception and gain wealth at the expense of his father-in-law, who continued his deception, changing Jacob's wages ten times (Genesis 31:7 ,Genesis 31:7,31:41 ) Amid the family infighting, both men prospered financially, and Jacob's family grew. Eventually he had twelve children from four women (Genesis 29:31-30:24 ).
Intense bargaining ensued when Jacob told Laban he wanted to follow God's call and return to the land of his birth. Supported by his wives, who claimed their father had cheated them of their dowry (Genesis 31:15 ), Jacob departed while Laban and his sons were away in the hills shearing sheep. Starting two days later, Laban and his sons could not overtake Jacob until they reached Gilead, 400 miles from Haran.
Laban complained that he had not had an opportunity to bid farewell to his daughters with the accustomed feast. More importantly, he wanted to recover his stolen gods (Genesis 31:30 ,Genesis 31:30,31:32 ). These gods were small metal or terra-cotta figures of deities. See Terraphim. Without the images, his family lost the magical protection which he thought the gods provided from demons and disasters. Since no fault could be found in Jacob's conduct in Haran, all Laban could do was to suggest a covenant of friendship. Laban proposed the terms as (1) never ill-treating his daughters, (2) never marrying any other women, and (3) establishing the site of the covenant as a boundary neither would cross with evil intent. Jacob was now head of his own household. He was ready to climb to a higher plane of spiritual experience.
As Jacob approached the Promised Land, a band of angels met him at Mahanaim (Genesis 32:1-2 ). They probably symbolized God's protection and encouragement as he headed southward to meet Esau for the first time in twenty years. Esau's seemingly hostile advance prompted a call for clear evidence of God's guarding. Shrewdly, Jacob sent an enormous gift to his brother and divided his retinue into two groups. Each group was large enough to defend itself or to escape if the other was attacked. To his scheme Jacob added prayer. He realized that it was ultimately God with whom he must deal. When all had crossed the Jabbok River, Jacob met One who wrestled with him until daybreak (Genesis 32:1 ).
The two struggled without one gaining advantage, until the Opponent dislocated Jacob's hip. Jacob refused to release his Antagonist. Clinging to Him, he demanded a blessing. This would not be given until Jacob said his name. By telling it, Jacob acknowledged his defeat and admitted his character. The Opponent emphasized His superiority by renaming the patriarch. He became Israel, the one on whose behalf God strives. He named the place Peniel (face of God), because he had seen God face to face and his life had been spared (Genesis 32:30 ).
Jacob's fear of meeting Esau proved groundless. Seemingly, Esau was content to forget the wrongs of the past and to share his life. As two contrary natures are unlikely to live long in harmony, Jacob chose the better course turning westward to the Promised Land. Esau headed to Seir to become the father of the Edomites. The twins did not meet again until their father's death (Genesis 35:27-29 ).
From Succoth, Jacob traveled to Shechem, where he built an altar to God. The son of the city ruler raped Jacob's daughter, Dinah. Jacob's sons demanded that the Shechemites be circumcised before any intermarriages were permitted. The leading citizens followed the king in the request. They hoped to absorb the Hebrews' wealth and property into their own. While the men of Shechem were recovering from surgery and unable to defend themselves, Simeon and Levi killed them to avenge their sister. Jacob condemned their actions, but had to leave Shechem.
From Shechem, he returned to Bethel. Once again he received the patriarchal promises. Losses and grief characterized this period. The death of his mother's nurse (Genesis 35:8 ; Genesis 24:59 ) was followed by the death of his beloved wife Rachel while giving birth to Benjamin at Ephrath (Genesis 35:19 ; Genesis 48:7 ). About the same time Reuben forfeited the honor of being the eldest son by sexual misconduct (Genesis 35:22 ). Finally, the death of Jacob's father, who had been robbed of companionship with both sons, brought Jacob and Esau together again at the family burial site in Hebron.
Although Genesis 37-50 revolve around Joseph, Jacob is still the central figure. The self-willed older sons come and go at his bidding.
Descent to Egypt When severe famine gripped Canaan, Jacob and his sons set out for Egypt. At Beer-sheba Jacob received further assurance of God's favor (Genesis 46:1-4 ). Jacob dwelt in the land of Goshen until his death. Jacob bestowed the blessing not only upon his favorite son Joseph, but also upon Joseph's two oldest sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. He was finally laid to rest at Hebron in the cave Abraham had purchased (Genesis 50:12-14 ).
Four New Testament passages recall events in his life. The woman at the well in Sychar declared to Jesus that Jacob provided the well (John 4:12 ). Stephen mentioned the famine and Jacob's journey to Egypt in the course of his defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:8-16 ). Paul presented
Jacob as an example of the sovereign choice of God and of the predestination of the elect (Romans 9:10-13 ). The writer of Hebrews held up Jacob as one of the examples of active faith (Hebrews 11:9 ,Hebrews 11:9,11:20-22 ).
Jacob's Character Throughout the narrative a persistent faith in the God of the fathers shines through. Jacob's life was a story of conflict. He always seemed to be running from someone or something—from Esau, from Laban, or from famine in Canaan. His life, like that of all Israelites, was a checkered history of rebellion and flight.
Jacob is no ideal. Jacob's better nature struggled with his sinful self. What raised Jacob above himself was his reverent, indestructible longing for the salvation of his God.
Jacob's Religion As the religion of Israel and thus the roots of Christianity claim to derive from the patriarchs, it is necessary to attempt to understand Jacob's spiritual life. See God of the Fathers .
Jacob's religion was consistent with the beliefs and practices of his fathers. He received instruction from Isaac concerning the history of Abraham, covenant, and the great promises. Jacob encountered God at Bethel at the moment of greatest need in his life. He was fleeing from home to distant unknown relatives. A secondhand religion would not do. Jacob's dream was
his firsthand encounter with God. The threefold promise of land, descendants, and a blessing to all nations were personalized for him. Jacob saw in the vision the majesty and glory of God. At Bethel Jacob worshiped God and vowed to take Yahweh as his God.
At Peniel, Jacob wrestled face-to-face with God. He saw how weak he was before God. It taught him the value of continued prayer from one who is helpless. Jacob emerged from Peniel willing to let his life fall into God's control. He was wounded but victorious. God gave him a crippled body but a strengthened faith. It was a new Jacob—Israel—who hobbled off to meet Esau. He had learned obedience through suffering.
Theological Significance God did not chose Jacob because of what he was but because of what he could become. His life is a long history of discipline, chastisement, and purification by affliction. Not one of his misdeeds went unpunished. He sowed deception and reaped the same, first from Laban and then from his own sons.
Jacob's story is a story of conflict. The note of conflict is even heard before his birth (Genesis 25:22-23 ). However, in the midst of the all-too-human quarrels over family and fortune, God was at work protecting and prospering His blessed.
With the other patriarchs God acted directly, but with Jacob God seemed to be withdrawn at times. Yet, God was no less at work. He worked through unsavory situations and unworthy persons. Even in Jacob's web of conflict and tragedy, God's hand guided, though half-hidden.
Gary D. Baldwin
Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(See ESAU; ISAAC.) ("supplanter", or "holding the heel".) Esau's twin brother, but second in point of priority. Son of Isaac, then 60 years old, and Rebekah. As Jacob "took his brother by the heel (the action of a wrestler) in the womb" (Hosea 12:3), so the spiritual Israel, every believer, having no right in himself to the inheritance, by faith when being born again of the Spirit takes hold of the bruised heel, the humanity, of Christ crucified, "the Firstborn of many brethren." He by becoming a curse for us became a blessing to the true Israel; contrast Hebrews 12:16-17. Jacob was a "plain," i.e. an upright man, steady and domestic, affectionate, so his mother's favorite: Genesis 25:24, etc., "dwelling in tents," i.e. staying at home, minding the flocks and household duties; not, like Esau, wandering abroad in keen quest of game, "a man of the field," wild, restless, self indulgent, and seldom at home in the tent.
Having bought the birthright from Esau, he afterward, at Rebekah's instigation, stole the blessing which his father intended for Esau, but which God had appointed to him even when the two sons were yet unborn; "the elder shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:29; Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:12). His seeking a right end by wrong means (Genesis 27) entailed a life-long retribution in kind. Instead of occupying the first place of honour in the family he had to flee for his life; instead of a double portion, he fled with only the staff in his hand. It was now, when his schemes utterly failed, God's grace began to work in him and for him, amidst his heavy outward crosses. If he had waited in faith God's time, and God's way, of giving the blessing promised by God, and not unlawfully with carnal policy foiled Isaac's intention, God would have defeated his father's foolish purpose and Jacob would have escaped his well deserved chastisement.
The fear of man, precautions cunning, habitual timidity as to danger, characterize him, as we might have expected in one quiet and shrewd to begin with, then schooled in a life exposed to danger from Esau, to grasping selfishness from Laban, and to undutifulness from most of his sons (Genesis 31:15; Genesis 31:42; Genesis 34:5; Genesis 34:30; Genesis 43:6; Genesis 43:11-12). Jacob's grand superiority lay in his abiding trust in the living God. Faith made him "covet earnestly the best gift," though his mode of getting it (first by purchase from the reckless, profane Esau, at the cost of red pottage, taking ungenerous advantage of his brother's hunger; next by deceit) was most unworthy.
When sent forth by his parents to escape Esau, and to get a wife in Padan Aram, he for the first time is presented before us as enjoying God's manifestations at Bethel in his vision of the ladder set up on earth, and the top reaching heaven, with "Jehovah standing above, and the angels of God ascending and descending (not descending and ascending, for the earth is presupposed as already the scene of their activity) on it," typifying God's providence and grace arranging all things for His people's good through the ministry of "angels" (Genesis 28; Hebrews 1:14). When his conscience made him feel his flight was the just penalty of his deceit God comforts him by promises of His grace.
Still more typifying Messiah, through whom heaven is opened and also joined to earth, and angels minister with ceaseless activity to Him first, then to His people (John 14:6; Revelation 4:1; Acts 7:56; Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-20). Jacob the man of guile saw Him at the top of the ladder; Nathanael, an Israelite without guile, saw Him at the bottom in His humiliation, which was the necessary first step upward to glory. John 1:51; "hereafter," Greek "from now," the process was then beginning which shall eventuate in the restoration of the union between heaven and earth, with greater glory than before (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 21:1 - 22:21). Then followed God's promise of (1) the land and (2) of universal blessing to all families of the earth "in his seed," i.e. Christ; meanwhile he should have
(1) God's presence,
(2) protection in all places,
(3) restoration to home,
(4) unfailing faithfulness (Genesis 28:15; compare Genesis 28:20-21).
Recognizing God's manifestation as sanctifying the spot, he made his stony pillow into a pillar, consecrated with oil (See BETHEL), and taking up God's word he vowed that as surely as God would fulfill His promises (he asked no more than "bread and raiment") Jehovah should be his God, and of all that God gave he would surely give a tenth to Him; not waiting until he should be rich to do so, but while still poor; a pattern to us (compare Genesis 32:10). Next follows his seven years' service under greedy Laban, in lieu of presents to the parents (the usual mode of obtaining a wife in the East, Genesis 24:53, which Jacob was unable to give), and the imposition of Leah upon him instead of Rachel; the first installment of his retributive chastisement in kind for his own deceit. Kennicott suggested that Jacob served 14 years for his wives, then during 20 years he took care of Laban's cattle as a friend, then during six years he served for wages (Genesis 31:38; Genesis 31:41).
"One (zeh ) 20 years I was with thee (tending thy flocks, but not in thy house); another (zeh ) 20 years I was for myself in thy house, serving thee 14 years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle." The ordinary view that he was only 20 years old in Padan Aram would make him 77 years old in going there; and as Joseph, the second youngest, was born at the end of the first 14 years, the 11 children born before Benjamin would be all born within six or seven years, Leah's six, Rachel's one, Bilhah's two, and Zilpah's two. It is not certain that Dinah was born at this time. Zebulun may have been borne by Leah later than Joseph, it not being certain that the births all followed in the order of their enumeration, which is that of the mothers, not that of the births. Rachel gave her maid to Jacob not necessarily after the birth of Leah's fourth son; so Bilhah may have borne Dan and Naphtali before Judah's birth.
Leah then, not being likely to have another son, probably gave Zilpah to Jacob, and Asher and Naphtali were born; in the beginning of the last of the seven years probably Leah bore Issachar, and at its end Zebulun. But in the view of Kennicott and Speaker's Commentary Jacob went to Laban at 57; in the first 14 years had sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah by Leah; Dan and Naphtali by Bilhah; in the 20 years (Genesis 35:38) next had Gad and Asher by Zilpah, Issachar and Zebulun by Leah, lastly Dinah by Leah and Joseph by Rachel; then six years' service for cattle, then flees from Padan Aram where he had been 40 years, at 97. In Jacob's 98th year Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. Joseph at 17 goes to Egypt, at 30 is governor. At 130 Jacob goes to Egypt (Genesis 46:1); dies at 147 (Genesis 47:28).
The assigning of 40, instead of 20, years to his sojourn with Laban allows time for Er and Onan to be grown up when married; their strong passions leading them to marry, even so, at an early age for that time. The common chronology needs some correction, since it makes Judah marry at 20, Er and Onan at 15. On Jacob desiring to leave, Laban attested God's presence with Jacob. "I have found by experience (Hebrew "by omens from serpents," the term showing Laban's paganness: Genesis 30:19; Genesis 30:32) that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake." Jacob then required as wages all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats, which usually are few, sheep in the East being generally white, the goats black or brown, not speckled.
With characteristic sharpness Jacob adopted a double plan of increasing the wages agreed on. Peeling rods of (Gesenius) storax ("poplar"), almond ("hazel"), and plane tree ("chesnut") in strips, so that the dazzling white wood of these trees should appear under the dark outside, he put them in the drinking troughs; the cattle consequently brought forth spotted, speckled young, which by the agreement became Jacob's. Thus by trickery he foiled Laban's trickery in putting three days' journey between his flock tended by Jacob and Jacob's stipulated flock of spotted and speckled goats and brown put under the care of his sons. Secondly, Jacob separated the speckled young, which were his, so as to be constantly in view of Laban's one-colored flock. Moreover he adopted the trick with the rods only at the copulation of the strong sheep, namely, at the summer copulation not the autumn; for lambs conceived in spring were thought stronger.
Laban changed the terms frequently ("ten times") when he saw Jacob's success, but in vain. Jacob accounted to his wives for his success by narrating his dream, which he had at the time the cattle conceived (Genesis 31:10). This dream was at the beginning of the six years. "God hath taken away your father's cattle and given them to me." God's command to Jacob to return was in a dream at the close of the six years (Genesis 31:11-13; in 12 translated leaped for "leap," and were for "are".) In the latter God states the true cause of his success; not his trickery, but "I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee": the repetition of "in a dream" twice implies two dreams. Jacob's polygamy was contrary to the original law of paradise (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:5). Leah was imposed on him when he had designed to marry Rachel only, and the maids were given him by his wives to obtain offspring.
The times of ignorance, when the gospel had not yet restored the original standard, tolerated evils which would be inexcusable now. Jealousies were the result of polygamy in Jacob's case, as was sure to happen. The most characteristic scene of Jacob's higher life was his wrestling until break of day (compare Luke 6:12) with the Angel of Jehovah, in human form, for a blessing. "By his strength he had power with God, yea he had power over the Angel and prevailed, he wept and made supplication unto Him" (Hosea 12:3-4). So He received the name Israel, "contender with God," a pattern to us (Matthew 11:12; Matthew 15:22; Revelation 3:21; Luke 13:24). (See ISRAEL.) His "strength" was conscious weakness constraining him, when his thigh was put out of joint and he could put forth no effort of his own, to hang upon Him; teaching us the irresistible might of conscious weakness hanging on Almighty strength (Job 23:6; Isaiah 27:5; Isaiah 40:29-31; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
"I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me" is a model prayer (Genesis 32:26). Tears (recorded by Hosea under an independent Spirit of revelation) and supplications were his weapons; type of Messiah (Hebrews 5:7). The vision of the two encampments of angels on either side of him prepared him for the vision of the Lord of angels. (See MAHANAIM.) Thus he saw, "they that be with us (believers) are more than they that be with" our enemies (2 Kings 6:16-17). Wrestling first with God, we can victoriously wrestle with Satan (Ephesians 6:12). Jacob like David felt "what time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalms 56:3-4; Psalms 56:11; 1 Samuel 30:6).
His is one of the earliest prayers on record (Genesis 32:7; Genesis 32:9-12). He pleads as arguments (compare Isaiah 43:26), first God's covenant keeping character to the children of His people, "O God of my father Abraham and Isaac"; next, His word and promises (Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 31:13), "the Lord which saidst unto me, Return ... and I will deal well with thee"; next, his own unworthiness, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies," etc. (compare Isaiah 28:20-22); next the petition itself, "deliver me ... from Esau," appealing to God's, known pity for the helpless, "I fear him lest he ... smite ... the mother with the children"; again falling back on God's own word, "Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea;" etc. The present, artfully made seem larger by putting a space between drove and drove, and each driver in turn saying, "they be thy servant Jacob's, ... a present unto my lord Esau," was calculated by successive appeals to impress the impulsive elder brother (Matthew 5:25).
Having left Canaan in guilt, now on his return Jacob must re-enter it with deep searchings of heart and wrestlings with God for the recovery of that sinless faith which he had forfeited by deceit and which lays hold of the covenant. Jacob is made to know he has more to fear from God's displeasure than from Esau's enmity Once that he stands right with God he need not fear Esau. There followed therefore the wrestling "alone" with Jehovah (compare Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35); his being named "Israel"; and his asking God's name, to which the only reply was, God "blessed him there." Blessing is God's name, i.e. the character wherein He reveals Himself to His people (Exodus 34:5-7). Jacob called the place Peniel, "the face of God." Next Jacob came to Succoth, then crossed Jordan, and near Shechem bought his only possession in Canaan, the field whereon he tented, from the children of Hamer, Shechem's father, for 100 kesita, i.e. ingots of silver of a certain weight.
The old versions translated "lambs," an ancient standard of wealth before coinage was practiced. For "Shalem, a city of Shechem," translated with Samaritan Pentateuch, "Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem," though there is still a Salim E. of Nablus (Shechem). His settlement here in the N. instead of with his father in the S. at Beersheba may have been to avoid collision with Esau and to make an independent settlement in the promised land. It seems to have been in a time of his temporary religious declension after his escape from Esau through God's interposition. Undue intercourse with the Canaanites around ended in Dinah's fall and the cruel retribution by Simeon and Levi, which so imperiled his position among the surrounding Canaanites, and which so deeply affected him (Genesis 33:17; Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34; Genesis 49:5-6).
It is true he erected an altar, Εl Εlohe Ιsrael , claiming God as his own "the God of Israel." Still God saw need for calling him to a personal and domestic revival. Jacob understood it so, and called his household to put away their strange gods (namely, Rachel's stolen teraphim and the idols of Shechem, which was spoiled just before), their earrings (used as idolatrous phylacteries), and uncleanness; and then proceeded to perform what he had vowed so long ago, namely, to make the stone pillar God's house (Genesis 28:22). When thus once more he sought peace with God "the terror of God was upon the cities around" (compare Joshua 2:9). They made no attempt such as Jacob feared to avenge the slaughter of the Shechemites. Reaching Bethel once more after 40 years, where he had seen the heavenly ladder, he has a vision of God confirming his name "Israel" and the promise of nations springing from him, and of his seed inheriting the land; He therefore rears again the stone pillar to Εl Shaddai , "God Almighty," the name whereby God had appeared to Abram also when He changed his name to Abraham.
Then followed the birth of Benjamin, which completed the tribal twelve (Genesis 35). The loss of his favorite son Joseph was his heaviest trial, his deceit to Isaac now being repaid by his sons' cruel deceit to himself. Tender affection for wife and children was his characteristic (Genesis 37:33-35; Genesis 42:36; Genesis 45:28). By special revelation at Beersheba (Genesis 46) allaying his fears of going to Egypt, which Isaac had been expressly forbidden to do (Genesis 26:2), he went down. This marks the close of the first stage in the covenant and the beginning of the second stage. Leaving Canaan as a family, Israel returned as a nation.
In Egypt the transformation took place; the civilization, arts, and sciences of Egypt adapted it well for the divine purpose of training Israel in this second stage of their history; Jacob and his family, numbering 70, or as Stephen from Septuagint reads, 75 souls (Acts 7:14), according as Joseph's children only or his grandchildren also are counted. Jacob's sons' wives are not reckoned in the 70 persons, only the unmarried daughter Dinah and a granddaughter. In the number are included, according to Hebrew usage, some who were still "in the loins of their fathers." Benjamin's (then only 24) ten sons were probably born in Egypt subsequently. So Pharez' two sons and Asher's two grandsons by Beriah. In the genealogy those named are the heads of tribes and of famiLies. At 130 Jacob blessed Pharaoh and termed his life a "pilgrimage" of days "few and evil" (47; Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 11:13). The catalog of ills includes his sufferings:
(1) from Esau,
(3) maiming by the Angel,
(4) Dinah's violation and Simeon and Levi's cruelty,
(5) loss of Joseph,
(6) Simeon's imprisonment,
(7) Benjamin's departure,
(8) Rachel's death,
(9) Reuben's incest.
All these seemed "against" him, but all was for him, because God was for him (Romans 8:28; Romans 8:31; Romans 8:37; Genesis 42:36). His true grandeur and sublimity burst forth at his latter end; his triumphant and grateful review of life," God, before whom my fathers did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lad!" His blessing Joseph's sons was an act of "faith" (Hebrews 11:21), "leaning upon the top of his staff," an additional fact brought out by Paul (adopting Septuagint), as he worshipped on his bed (Genesis 47:31; Genesis 48:2); the staff symbolized his "pilgrim" spirit seeking the heavenly city (Genesis 32:10). Faith adapted him to receive prophetic insight into the characters and destiny of Ephraim and Manasseh respectively, as also of his other representatives.
He anticipates the future as present, saying "I have given to thee (Joseph's descendants) above thy brethren (Ephraim was the chief tribe of the N.) one portion of that land which I in the person of my descendants (Joshua and Israel) am destined to take with sword and bow from the Amorites" (Genesis 48:22). In Genesis 49:28 his prophecy as to his several sons and the tribes springing from them is called a "blessing" because, though a portion was denunciatory, yet as a whole all were within the covenant of blessing, but with modifications according to their characteristics. What already was gave intimation to the spirit of prophecy in Jacob of what would be. His prophecy of Shiloh's coming in connection with Judah's ceasing to have the sceptre and a lawgiver more accurately defined the Messianic promise than it had been before.
The general promise of "the seed" sprung from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he now limits to Judah. His faith in "bowing on his bed" after Joseph promised to bury him in Canaan (Genesis 47:29-30) consisted in his confidence of God's giving Canaan to his seed, and he therefore earnestly desired to be buried there. Epistle to Hebrew omits his last blessing on his 12 sons, because Paul "plucks only the flowers by his way and leaves the whole meadow to his hearers" (Delitzsch). His secret and true life is epitomized in "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Genesis 49:18). At 147 he died, and his body was embalmed and after a grand state funeral procession buried with his fathers in the cave of Machpelah before Mamre (Genesis 1).
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
JACOB. 1. Son of Isaac and Rebekah. His name is probably an elliptical form of an original Jakob’el , ‘God follows’ ( i.e. ‘rewards’), which has been found both on Babylonian tablets and on the pylons of the temple of Karnak. By the time of Jacob this earlier history of the word was overlooked or forgotten, and the name was understood as meaning ‘one who takes by the heel, and thus tries to trip up or supplant’ ( Genesis 25:26 ; Genesis 27:36 , Hosea 12:3 ). His history is recounted in Genesis 25:21 to Genesis 50:13 , the materials being unequally contributed from three sources. For the details of analysis see Dillmann, Com ., and Driver, LOT [Note: OT Introd. to the Literature of the Old Testament.] 3 , p. 16. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] supplies but a brief outline; J [Note: Jahwist.] and E [Note: Elohist.] are closely interwoven, though a degree of original independence is shown by an occasional divergence in tradition, which adds to the credibility of the joint narrative.
Jacob was born in answer to prayer (Genesis 25:21 ), near Beersheba; and the later rivalry between Israel and Edom was thought of as prefigured in the strife of the twins in the womb ( Genesis 25:22 f., 2Es 3:16 ; Esther 6:8-10 Esther 6:8-10 , Romans 9:11-13 ). The differences between the two brothers, each contrasting with the other in character and habit, were marked from the beginning. Jacob grew up a ‘quiet man’ ( Genesis 25:27 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ), a shepherd and herdsman. Whilst still at home, he succeeded in overreaching Esau in two ways. He took advantage of Esau’s hunger and heedlessness to secure the birthright, which gave him precedence even during the father’s lifetime ( Genesis 43:33 ), and afterwards a double portion of the patrimony ( Deuteronomy 21:17 ), with probably the domestic priesthood. At a later time, after careful consideration ( Genesis 27:11 ff.), he adopted the device suggested by his mother, and, allaying with ingenious falsehoods ( Genesis 27:20 ) his father’s suspicion, intercepted also his blessing. Isaac was dismayed, but instead of revoking the blessing confirmed it ( Genesis 27:33-37 ), and was not able to remove Esau’s bitterness. In both blessings later political and geographical conditions are reflected. To Jacob is promised Canaan, a well-watered land of fields and vineyards ( Deuteronomy 11:14 ; Deuteronomy 33:28 ), with sovereignty over its peoples, even those who were ‘brethren’ or descended from the same ancestry as Israel ( Genesis 19:37 f., 2 Samuel 8:12 ; 2 Samuel 8:14 ). Esau is consigned to the dry and rocky districts of IdumÃ¦a, with a life of war and plunder; but his subjection to Jacob is limited in duration ( 2 Kings 8:22 ), if not also in completeness ( Genesis 27:40 f., which points to the restlessness of Edom).
Of this successful craft on Jacob’s part the natural result on Esau’s was hatred and resentment, to avoid which Jacob left his home to spend a few days (Genesis 27:44 ) with his uncle in Haran. Two different motives are assigned. JE [Note: Jewish Encyclopedia.] represents Rebekah as pleading with her son his danger from Esau; but P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] represents her as suggesting to Isaac the danger that Jacob might marry a Hittite wife ( Genesis 27:46 ). The traditions appear on literary grounds to have come from different sources; but there is no real difficulty in the narrative as it stands. Not only are man’s motives often complex; but a woman would be likely to use different pleas to a husband and to a son, and if a mother can counsel her son to yield to his fear, a father would be more alive to the possibility of an outbreak of folly. On his way to Haran, Jacob passed a night at Bethel (cf. Genesis 13:3 f.), and his sleep was, not unnaturally, disturbed by dreams; the cromlechs and stone terraces of the district seemed to arrange themselves into a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels ascending and descending, whilst Jehovah Himself bent over him ( Genesis 28:13 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ) with loving assurances. Reminded thus of the watchful providence of God, Jacob’s alarms were transmuted into religions awe. He marked the sanctity of the spot by setting up as a sacred pillar the boulder on which his head had rested, and undertook to dedicate a tithe of all his gains. Thence forward Bethel became a famous sanctuary, and Jacob himself visited it again ( Genesis 35:1 ; cf. Hosea 12:4 ).
Arrived at Haran, Jacob met in his uncle his superior for a time in the art of overreaching. By a ruse Laban secured fourteen years’ service (Genesis 29:27 , Hosea 12:12 , Jdt 8:26 ), to which six years more were added, under an ingenious arrangement in which the exacting uncle was at last outwitted ( Genesis 30:31 ff.). At the end of the term Jacob was the head of a household conspicuous even in those days for its magnitude and prosperity. Quarrels with Laban and his sons ensued, but God is represented as intervening to turn their arbitrary actions ( Genesis 31:7 ff.) to Jacob’s advantage. At length he took flight whilst Laban was engaged in sheep-shearing, and, re-crossing the Euphrates on his way home, reached Gilead. There he was overtaken by Laban, whose exasperation was increased by the fact that his teraphim , or household gods, had been taken away by the fugitives, Rachel’s hope in stealing them being to appropriate the good fortune of her fathers. The dispute that followed was closed by an alliance of friendship, the double covenant being sealed by setting up in commemoration a cairn with a solitary boulder by its side ( Genesis 31:45 f., Genesis 31:52 ), and by sharing a sacrificial meal. Jacob promised to treat Laban’s daughters with special kindness, and both Jacob and Laban undertook to respect the boundary they had agreed upon between the territories of Israel and of the Syrians. Thereupon Laban returned home; and Jacob continued his journey to Canaan, and was met by the angels of God ( Genesis 32:1 ), as if to congratulate and welcome him as he approached the Land of Promise.
Jacobs next problem was to conciliate his brother, who was reported to be advancing against him with a large body of men (Genesis 32:6 ). Three measures were adopted. When a submissive message elicited no response, Jacob in dismay turned to God, though without any expression of regret for the deceit by which he had wronged his brother, and proceeded to divide his party into two companies, in the hope that one at least would escape, and to try to appease Esau with a great gift. The next night came the turning-point in Jacob’s life. Hitherto he had been ambitious, steady of purpose, subject to genuine religious feeling, but given up almost wholly to the use of crooked methods. Now the higher elements in his nature gain the as