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Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel

Profile of Jacob, Third in Line in God’s Covenant

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Jacob in the Bible

In the dream of Jacob's Ladder, angels ascended and descended from heaven, and God extended his covenant promise to Jacob.

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Jacob was one of the great patriarchs of the Old Testament, but at times he was also a schemer, liar, and manipulator.

God established his covenant with Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. The blessings continued through Jacob's father, Isaac, then to Jacob and his descendants. Jacob's sons became leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.

The younger of twins, Jacob was born holding on to his brother Esau's heel. His name means "he grasps the heel" or "he deceives." Jacob lived up to his name. He and his mother Rebekah cheated Esau out of his birthright and blessing. Later in Jacob's life, God renamed him Israel, which means "he struggles with God."

In fact, Jacob struggled with God his entire life, as many of us do. As he matured in faith, Jacob depended on God more and more. But the turning point for Jacob came after a dramatic, all-night wrestling match with God. In the end the Lord touched Jacob's hip and he was a broken man, but also a new man. From that day forward, Jacob was called Israel. And for the rest of his life he walked with a limp, demonstrating his dependence on the Lord. Jacob finally learned to give up control to God.

Jacob's story teaches us how an imperfect person can be greatly blessed by God--not because of who he or she is, but because of who God is.

Jacob's Accomplishments:

Jacob in the Bible account, fathered 12 sons, who became leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. One of them was Joseph, a key figure in the Old Testament.

His name is frequently associated with God in the Bible: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Jacob persevered in his love for Rachel. He proved to be a hard worker.

Jacob's Strengths:

Jacob was clever. Sometimes this trait worked for him and sometimes it backfired on him.

He used both his mind and strength to build his wealth and family.

Jacob's Weaknesses:

Sometimes Jacob made his own rules, deceiving others for selfish gain. He did not trust God to work things out.

Even though God revealed himself to Jacob in the Bible, Jacob took a long time to become a true servant of the Lord.

He favored Joseph over his other sons, leading to jealousy and strife within his family.

Life Lessons:

The sooner we trust God in life, the longer we will benefit from his blessings. When we fight God, we are in a losing battle.

We often worry about missing the will of God for our life, but God works with our mistakes and bad decisions. His plans cannot be upset.

Hometown:

Canaan.

Referenced in the Bible:

Jacob's story is found in Genesis chapters 25-37, 42, 45-49. His name is mentioned throughout the Bible in connection with God: "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Occupation:

Shepherd, prosperous owner of sheep and cattle.

Family Tree:

Father: Isaac
Mother: Rebekah
Brother: Esau
Grandfather: Abraham
Wives: Leah, Rachel
Sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali
Daughter: Dinah

Key Verses:

Genesis 28:12-15
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (NIV)

Genesis 28:20-22
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." (NIV)

Genesis 32:28
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome." (NIV)

Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
New Testament People of the Bible (Index)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.

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