Jacob means “heel-catcher” or “supplanter,” because at delivery, he clutched the heel of his twin brother Esau in an apparent attempt to be the firstborn. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel by God. Israel means “struggles with God” or “God strives”.

Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and he was a grandson of Abraham. During Rebekah’s twin pregnancy God revealed to her that the younger would rule over the older, and Jacob was born second. When the twins were young men, Esau referred to Jacob in a pejorative sense indicating “Jacob” meant “supplanter” to him; because although the younger of the two, Jacob secured the birthright and special blessing from Isaac. Esau’s rage at loss of the paternal blessing manifested in threats of murder against Jacob. Isaac soon sent Jacob to Paddan-Aram to live with a relative named Laban.

During Jacob’s travel to safety God affirmed His covenant to Jacob in a dream. Jacob would be the inheritor of the Abrahamic Covenant.

For 20 years, God blessed Jacob’s labor in Laban’s household, and Jacob married two of Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel. Following God’s directions, Jacob and his wives made an eventful return to the Promised Land of Canaan. Just before they were to meet Esau again after decades apart, Jacob had a personal experience with God, who changed Jacob’s name to Israel.

God directed Jacob (Israel) to dwell in Bethel where God reaffirmed His covenant promises again. In Canaan, Jacob would father 12 sons whose descendant would become the 12 tribes of Israel. In his later years, Jacob moved his 70 member household to Egypt under care of his son Joseph, and there Jacob individually blessed his 12 sons before dying at 147 years of age.

Jacob’s body was returned to the cave of Machpelah in Canaan to be buried in the family tomb.

Key Verses: Genesis 25:21-23; 29-34; 27:26-29; 28:1-4, 12-15; 30:25,26; 31:2,3; 32:22-30; 35:1,11-15; 46:1-7; 49:1, 28; 50:29,30; Hebrews 11:21

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