By Genelle Austin-Lett

Categories: Patriarchs

  • Jacob's theft of his brother's blessing was actually sanctioned by Isaac and Rebekah, as they were deeply distressed at the news of Esau's marriage to a Caananite woman (Gen. 26:34-35), thus rendering Esau unfit for the blessing. Curiously, as Norman Cohen states in Voices from Genesis, "Isaac would live for [over twenty years] which indicates that he had not been old and senile at the time of the dual blessings, but had known about the deception, and was a party to its outcome... [in order for ] Jacob to assert his own strength and independence, Isaac had no choice but to appear weak and easily manipulated..." 1
  • Jacob lived up to his name, "the wily one" or, "he who seizes the heel." 2
  • Esau referred to him, Gen 27:36: "Is he not rightly named Jacob? for he
    has supplanted me these two times..." 3
  • Dreams in this case are "external forms of divine communication, in which actual encounters with God take place. When Jacob refers to this event, he does not speak of God's presence in his dream; he speaks of God's presence in the place!" 4
  • Imagine the depth of Jacob's surprise that God cared for him. After all, he had just deceived his father and stole his brother's blessing.
  • Jacob recognizes God's voice and His personal direction of his destiny.
  • "Jacob's vow is a model for believers today. He sought only the basics from God, not luxury. Jacob asked that God would: (1) be with him and watch over him on his journey; (2) give him food to eat and clothes to wear; and (3) return him safely to his father's house. In gratitude for this basic provision, Jacob committed himself to God and committed a tenth of all he possessed as an expression of thanks." 5 (Gen. 28:20-22)
  • Later, Jacob, the deceiver, is himself deceived when his Uncle Laban substitutes his oldest daughter, Leah, for the beloved Rachel whom he worked seven years.
  • After confronting Laban with his deception, Jacob is allowed to marry Rachel at the end of the seven-day bridal week. He gets both women within a week, but must work another seven years.
  • "Jacob's marriages were moral within the context of the society in which he lived." 6
  • When Laban attempts to deceive Jacob with the flocks, God intervenes. Gen 31:7 "And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me."
  • The number ten stands in scripture as meaning "many." 7
  • Jacob was unaware that Rachel had stolen her father's house gods. He was willing to die, if Laban found them. Rachel stashed them in the saddle bag where she was sitting. She told him she was having her menstrual cycle and that stopped him from removing her from where she was sitting. Women were considered unclean at that time of the month and tainted everything they came in contact, thus men stayed away from them.
  • Jacob divides the herds to give a large present to Esau. Giving Esau such a large gift isn't a bribe to appease him. This form of gift-giving was an established practice in the ancient Middle East. Jacob's actions didn't indicate a lack of trust in God, but an act of being culturally correct. 8
  • At Peniel, Jacob's name is changed to a new and significant name "...
    expunging the implications of his former name, 'supplanter or deceiver'
    and replacing it with Israel or 'one who perseveres with God.' " 9
  • This event was a turning point for Jacob. Up to this point he trusted his own strength and shrewdness for success. Now he learned his own strength was of no avail in wrestling with God and that he must resort to prayer for the blessing that he could not do without. 10 This blessing he couldn't steal. This recognition altered the course of his life and his nature (name).
  • He is greeted with forgiveness by Esau. They have a sweet conversation. Gen. 33:5-15. They both weep.
  • When Esau asks who is with him, Jacob tells him that these are his children, God's gifts. The oldest of his sons, Reuben, is about 14 years old.
  • The rape of Dinah, Jacob's daughter, causes all kinds of problems. Simeon and Levi avenge their sister's reputation by destroying all the male inhabitants of Shechem and conquering everything in the city.
  • Jacob returns to Bethel, where he first encountered God. He was to settle here and God spoke to him once again. "We too can return spiritually to the place where God first spoke to us. We can settle there spiritually, and keep our hearts open to hear God's voice." 11
  • On the trip to Bethlehem, Rachel dies after giving birth to a son she names Benoni. Jacob changes his name to Benjamin. One would think he should give his beloved wife her wish. Benoni means the son of my sorrow. Every time he would call him, it would bring to remembrance sorrow, so he renamed him Benjamin meaning the son of my right hand. That is a blessing. 12
  • Jacob shows great favoritism to Joseph, thus separating his sons.
  • While Jacob was no longer the deceiver, he instead was subjected to deception and grief by his own sons!
  • Jacob's life after Haran was God-centered. He knew God was fulfilling His promise to him through his sons


1 Norman Cohen. Voices from Genesis. Jewish Lights Publishing, 1998, p. 112.

2 Samuel Schultz. THE OLD TESTAMENT SPEAKS . New York: Harper and Row, 1960.

3 Ibid.

4 The New Interpreter's Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994 vol 1 p. 542.

5 Lawrence Richards. Richards Complete Bible Dictionary. Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, 2002 p. 538.

6 Ibid.

7 Robert Jamison. A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993 Vol 1 p. 208

8 Richards, p. 538

9 Schultz

10 The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974, p. 440.

11 Richards, p. 538

12 Matthew Henry's Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961 p. 56.

Bible Characters