Personal Information
Born c. 1807 BC
Died c. 1607 BC
Parents Isaac, Rebekah
Siblings Essau
Spouse(s) Leah
Bilhah (Leah's slave)
Zilpah (Rachel's slave)
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
Joseph, Benjamin
Bilhah (Leah's slave)
Dan, Nephtali
Zilpah (Rachel's slave) Gad, Asher
Wrestled with God ("Angel of Yahweh")
Messiah's ancestor
Father of the nation "Israel" (later divided)
Jacob was the twin brother of Esau, born to Isaac and Rebekah in Canaan around 1807 BC.  Marrying cousins in the land of Paran-Aram, he would return to his father's house after the death of his mother.  While gone he would have twelve sons and at least one daughter.  As this family, along with slaves, grew, they would end up moving to Egypt, where they would find refuge under the oversight of long-lost son Joseph.  Jacob would be renamed "Israel" by God Himself after wrestling with "the angel of Yahweh."  He would die in Egypt at the age of 180.

Early Life and FamilyEdit

His mother had been told by God that the younger of the twins would prevail over his brother, the rightful heir.  The firstborn was covered with red hair from the beginning, so the called him "Esau."  He would later be renamed "Edom" ("Red") after Jacob bribed him with a lintel stew -- "that red stuff" as Esau called it.

Esau was Isaac's favorite son, while Rebekah preferred her quiet son jacob.  This rivalry was under control for a while, but Rebekah conspired with Jacob to secure the patriarchal blessing as her husband who was suffering from his advanced age (over 100).  This resulted in a split in the family, with Esau swearing to get even after Isaac's death.  Rebekah sent Jacob back to her relatives, where he first met and fell in love with Rachel, younger daughter of Laban.  Laban claimed custom as demanding the older daughter to marry first, sending the veiled Leah into Jacob's tent to consummate the marriage.       Having agreed to work seven years for Rachel, Jacob worked another seven years for the hand of his true love. During that period, his two wives competed to have babies. Rachel was unable to bear children on her own, employed her slave girl Bilhah as a surrogate after Leah had born four sons. Leah was jealous when two sons were born to Bilhah and she had stopped bearing, so she had her slave girl Zilpah bear two sons to match her rival. Leah would go on to have two more sons and a daughter before Rachel would bear Joseph. Finally, after an encounter with the angel of Yahweh, Jacob would sire his final son, Benjamin.

Children of Israel[1]
Child mother born
Reuben Leah 1723 BC
Simeon Leah 1722 BC
Levi Leah 1721 BC
Judah Leah 1720 BC
Dan Bilhah 1720 BC
Naphtali Bilhah 1719 BC
Gad Zilpah 1719 BC
Asher Zilpah 1718 BC
Issachar Leah 1718 BC
Zebulon Leah 1717 BC
Dinah Leah

1717 BC

Joseph Rachel 1717 BC
Benjamin Rachel 1711 BC

A Christian architect by the name of Frank Classen figured the battle for babies worked out about like the chart to the right. A reading of the account in Genesis was his model. After Benjamin was born, Jacob finally left his father-in-law to return to Canaan where he reconciled with his brother and helped tend to an ailing Isaac who died soon thereafter.

New Life as IsraelEdit

Jacob had two memorable encounters with God - one dream and one actual struggle against a physical manifestation of God known as "the Angel of Yahweh."  In the dream, he saw that the way to heaven was by way of a ladder upon which God's messengers (Hebrew: Malak="angel" or "messenger") made trips to and from earth.  Later, he would encounter one of the chief among the angels, a being many consider the to be a "pre-incarnate" visit from God the Son, Jesus the Christ.  During that fight, Jacob was injured as a sign to others that he had been changed.  From that day on he would walk with a limp.  He was also told to take on a new name -- Israel, "a prince with God."

In Canaan, Israel would reconcile with Esau (aka Edom) and the two of them would soon bury Isaac, their father.  Their mother had died years earlier, never having seen her grandchildren.  A changed man, Israel still found it hard to break away from the mindset of his parents.  As a result, most of the children were raised to live much like their cousins in the land of Canaan.  The first test of character came when Dinah reached her early teens and became the object of desire of the son of a local tribal leader.  After what was taken as rape in the eyes of her brothers, Simeon and Levi, a devious plan was hatched to destroy a whole city.  They told this young man, Shechem by name, that he and all the men would have to become part of Israel's covenant family through circumcision. After falling for the ruse, the city was destroyed with every man being killed while weakened by the pain of the procedure.

A year or two later, Joseph would share his dreams with the family.  Even though he fawned over his son, Jacob joined the rest in laughing at the dreams.  Soon after that, the brothers,  only teens or in their early twenties, planned to kill their younger brother.  Reuben would save his brother from death, but not from slavery.  Jacob did not take the lie about his son's death by wild animals well at all.  Even Reuben, his first born, would disgrace him by sleeping with the mother of two of his half-brothers, Bilhah, Rachel's slave girl.  For this, Reuben would lose his birthright, which would go to Judah, his full brother and next in line after Simeon and Levi.  Even Judah, though, had proven to have moral defects that led to his daughter-in-law prostituting herself to continue the family line.

Finally, when faced with losing Benjamin during the famine at the end of his life, Israel could not bring himself to trust his older sons even in face of starvation.  Had Joseph not worked out his secret plan, the patriarch of the family would not have seen the fruition of God's mercy upon his wayward people.  In the end, though, Israel lived under Joseph's protection in Egypt and recieved a state funeral complete with burial in the tomb of Abraham in a cave near Mamre, Caanan in 1627 BC.

  1. Frank Classen, The Chronology of the Bible, (Regal Publishers, 1975), p16
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