Jacob, later given the name Israel, is regarded as a Patriarch of the Israelites and so is an important figure in Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jacob first appears in the Book of Genesis, the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham, Sarah and Bethuel, the nephew of Ishmael. He was the second-born of Isaac’s children, the elder being his fraternal twin brother Esau.
However, by deceiving Isaac when he was old and blind, Jacob was able to usurp the blessing that belonged to Esau as the firstborn son, and become the leader of their family.
Following a severe drought in his homeland Canaan, Jacob and his descendants, with the help of his son Joseph, who had since become a confidante of Pharaoh, moved to Egypt, where he died, aged 147 years, and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah.
Jacob is said to have had twelve sons by four women, his wives, Leah and Rachel, and his concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, who were, in order of their birth, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin, all of whom became the heads of their own family groups, later known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and it is also known that he had a daughter, Dinah. It is possible he had more children than the thirteen named in the Bible, as the passages Gen. 37:35 and Gen. 46:7 both mention the existence of his sons and daughters, which could support the existence of additional children, who were unnamed in religious texts. Jacob displayed favoritism among his wives and children, preferring Rachel and her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, causing tension within the family, culminating in the sale of Joseph by his brothers into slavery.
This chapter contains the well-known story of Jacob’s deception of his father Isaac. It is important to note the elements of the story, and to recall Jacob’s previously cunning acquisition of the birthright, for Jacob is here sowing very bad seed that would yield a bitter crop in due time. There is a real law of cause and effect operating not only in the physical universe but also in the moral universe. What you sow, that you shall reap (Galatians 6:7).
Recall that Jacob obtained the birthright through a cunning business transaction. Later, however, Jacob meets his match when he becomes entangled with the even more cunning Laban, who outwits or takes advantage of Jacob at every turn for the better part of 20 years. Here, Jacob deceives his blind father with a slain goat and a special coat. Later, Jacob is deceived by Laban when he is “blinded” by the darkness of his wedding tent, and by his own sons who counterfeit the death of Jacob’s beloved Joseph by using the blood of a slain goat and Joseph’s special coat. Indeed, for more than 20 years, Jacob will believe the terrible lie concocted by his own sons—that his dearly loved son is dead. Notice also Rebekah’s fateful words: “Let your curse be on me.” Indeed, she would be cursed—for just as Isaac could not see his son, so Rebekah would never again see her beloved Jacob after he left for Padan Aram. For before Jacob’s return some 20 years later, Rebekah would die.
Beware: Reaping what you sow is a very real spiritual principle. And just as God did not completely remove the bitterness of the crop Jacob was to reap—even though Jacob finally repented and became converted—so God will not completely remove the bitterness of the crop you sow. The spiritual effects of your bad actions may be forgiven, but in the flesh there will still be consequences. “Behold the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22, KJV). Just as God allowed Jacob to reap hardship and live a bitter life in order to help purge his character, so God will do with you in many respects. God is not mocked. Sow good seed—and reap the same. Sow bad seed—and reap the same as well!
After Jacob obtained the blessing by deception, Isaac and Rebekah sent him to Padan Aram, primarily to get him away from the wrathful Esau, but also to find him a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, Rebekah’s brother.