Jacob, who lived from 1836 BC to 1689 BC according to Ussher’s chronology of the Bible, was the second to arrive of twin sons born to Rebekah and Issac. His brother’s name was Esau. The name Jacob is believed to mean supplanter, or one that follows on another’s heels. Another commonly accepted meaning of Jacob is deceiver.
One view of Jacob is that he showed himself to be selfish and shrewd in his dealings with his brother Esau as he took advantage of Esau’s extreme hunger to persuade him to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew. Another view is that Esau was an impatient worldly man who thought so little of his birthright that he was willing to sell it and also to marry outside the faith rather than wait for a more appropriate spouse. To ensure the promise was kept, Jacob and his mother Rebekah, co-conspired to acquire the blessing of the birthright from Jacob’s aged father Issac.
This all important and strongly coveted birthright consisted of several benefits. They were:
- The leadership in worship and the head of the family.
- A double portion of the family inheritance.
- Right to the covenant blessings that God promised Abraham in which all nations would be blessed
Jacob’s Own Deception
After successfully acquiring the blessing of the birthright from his father, he began to fear the wrath of his brother. Because of the encouragement of his mother and the recommendation of his father, Jacob fled to the land of Haran. There he was to find a wife.
Jacob did fall in love with Rachel, his cousin, and negotiated to serve seven years of labor to acquire her hand in marriage. However, Jacob’s uncle Laban deceived Jacob and gave him his older sister Leah instead of Rachel according to their custom. Bargaining for another seven years of labor for Rachel, Jacob did eventually earn Rachel as his wife.
Jacob proceeded to build his family. He had six sons and a daughter from his wife Leah, two sons from Leah’s maidservant, two sons from his wife Rachel’s maidservant, and two sons from his wife Rachel.
The Return Home
After another six years, without announcement Jacob left to return to his father’s house. On his return journey, Jacob was visited by three angels. Many believe this was a sort of welcoming party back to the Promised Land. When he became aware of the approaching band of people led by his brother he sent a peace offering and greetings on to his brother Esau. He also sent his family on ahead of his so he could spend the night in communion with the Lord.
During his time with the Lord, Jacob was visited by another angel of the Lord. This unusual visit was spent in a wrestling match between the angel and Jacob. As the angel could not overcome Jacob he touched his hip and caused it to be wrenched from then on. Jacob refused to release the angel until he blessed him. From then on the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means struggles with God.
When Jacob resumed his journey home and met up with his brother Esau, the brothers met as friends and continued that relationship through the remainder of their lives. Rachel died during the birth of her last son Benjamin. Shortly after, Jacob suffered severe grief again when he was convinced that his favorite son Joseph had died.
During a severe famine, Jacob’s sons went to Egypt to acquire much needed food. The events that ensued led Jacob to Egypt to be reunited with his long-lost son Joseph. He had his entire family together settled in Egypt for about seventeen years at the end of his life. His dying request was that he be buried where his fathers had been buried in the Promised Land.
Elsewhere in the World
Emperor YU ruled in China around this time. The first intermediate kingdoms existed in Egypt.
The Hittites took over the area now occupied from Turkey.