one who follows on another's heels; supplanter, (Gen. 25:26;
27:36; Hos. 12:2-4), 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.

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

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"

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 (q.v.), 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 Canaanite 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 T0001712.)

The history of Jacob is referred to by the prophets Hosea
(12:3, 4, 12) and Malachi (1:2). In Micah 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 John 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
T0002335; BETHEL T0000554.)