<<son of Isaac, also called Israel>>
The younger twin son of Isaac and Rebekah. He was his mother’s favourite son, preferring to stay close to home, in contrast to his brother Esau who became a skillful hunter. Later God changed his name to Israel meaning, “he struggles with God”. Jacob, together with his grandfather (Abraham), father (Isaac), and his 12 sons (who headed the 12 tribes of Israel) were termed all patriarchs (Gen 35:23-26; Act 7:8).
Jacob obtained Esau’s birthright and blessing through deception but had to flee from his Palestine home because of the ill feeling involved. He was tricked by Laban into marrying his unattractive elder daughter Leah, yet was happy to work another extra seven years for Rachel, the one he loved. He was reconciled with Esau after some 20 years. During a seven-year famine, he and his family moved to Goshen in Egypt where Joseph, his son, was overseeing the distribution of food. It was through Jacob that God’s promise to Abraham of making a great nation was further out worked – both wives and their maids, who became concubines, bore him children.
He was born in 2006 BC. His story is told in Genesis 25-50 with various NT references.
Lessons from his life: * He was ‘a snatcher’ even at the time of his birth (Gen 25:26). This was a characteristic of his life for he seized the opportunity and got Esau’s valuable birthright for the price of a single meal, then later he took advantage of his father-in-law and acquired much livestock (Gen 25:29-34, 30:31-43). He was a schemer, playing the system to his advantage, exploited opportunities to benefit himself, often misusing others in the process. We should not be driven to win at any cost, but rather walk in honesty and integrity with all people. When he wrestled with the angel of God this competitive and determined trait of acquisition saw him gain once more, “I won't let go till I obtain a blessing” (Gen 32:26).
* He obtained Esau’s birthright and blessing through deceiving his father (Gen 27:14-30). This family privilege was normally reserved for the eldest son, although Esau had in fact sold it to Jacob sometime prior, as noted above. The principle of sowing and reaping is graphically portrayed as Laban deceived Jacob initially over the marriage with Leah. Ten times he was cheated in his wages (Gen 29:15-29, 31:7). The lifestyle and principles that we have allowed to shape our lives often rebound on us, and in increased measure.
* Even though he had been tricked he kept his side of the bargain and God prospered him. He served Laban faithfully for 20 years, remaining as a loyal hard worker till the Lord said move (Gen 30:29,43, 31:3,9,38-42). He knew what he wanted and worked hard to obtain it. When I have been out-manoeuvred or wronged do I stay, remaining steady and faithful until God clearly says it is time to move. Godly characteristics are developed in the unfair situations of life as the refining process can only be outworked in the heat of the furnace.
* Several different prayers and encounters with the angel of God are recorded (including Gen 28:10-22, 31:3, 32:1,2,9-12, in one he reminded God of His promise). The most life-changing episode was when alone during the night he wrestled with an angel of God (Gen 32:22-32). Even after his hip was wrenched, he continued to struggle and said he would not let go unless he was blessed. Our most life changing encounters with God are on our own too. Are we as persistent and determined to be blessed by God as Jacob was? His strong character resulted from struggling under tough conditions. He carried a mark of being touched by God for the rest of his life. Have our encounters with God had such long-term noticeable effects? The angel said his name would now be Israel meaning “you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome”. If your name was changed to reflect your character what would it be?
* He made a rash statement that could have cost him dearly, stating that whoever had stolen Laban’s idols would be put to death. He was unaware that his favourite wife was the culprit. She was able to escape being searched and thus the repercussions (Gen 31:32-35). Even when you consider yourself fully in the right, be careful of the statements you make. Our mouths get us into all sorts of tricky situations.
* Before Jacob built another altar to God he wanted his whole family purified of foreign gods (Gen 35:1-7). He acknowledged God had answered him in his distress and been with him. We too should remove from our lives and homes all traces associated with evil influences and practices so our worship to God comes from clean vessels uncontaminated by sin.
* Jacob unwisely favoured one of his sons above the others. As a result Joseph was despised by his brothers, who at one time conspired to murder him (Gen 37:3-11,18-20). Although each child has different characteristics and abilities, it is the responsibility of parents to treat all their children fairly to prevent sibling bitterness and conflict.
See also: Abraham, birthright, Esau, Joseph, Laban, patriarchs, Rachel.