Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the grandson of Abraham. He also had an older twin brother, Esau. As they grew up, Isaac favoured his eldest son Esau whereas Rebekah favoured Jacob. The custom of the day was for the eldest son to receive the birthright and blessing, but Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, and Jacob and Rebekah deceived Isaac, who was blind and very old, and tricked him into giving the blessing to Jacob instead. As a result, Esau hated Jacob.
Isaac sent Jacob away to Laban’s house in Paddan-aram to find a wife. Laban was Rebekah’s brother. He arrived at a well in Paddan-aram and met Rachel, Laban’s daughter, who was a shepherdess. He watered her flock of sheep and went to stay with Laban and his family. Jacob loved Rachel and made an agreement to serve Laban for seven years in order to receive Rachel as a wife. When the seven years were up, Laban prepared a wedding feast but tricked Jacob and gave him Leah, Rachel’s older sister, as a wife instead. Jacob was angry with Laban but they came to another agreement that Jacob could marry Rachel too and then continue to serve Laban for another seven years. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, so God opened Leah’s womb but left Rachel barren. Leah had four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Rachel envied Leah and wanted to provide children for Jacob too so she gave to Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah, who then bore two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Leah, not wanting to be missing out, then gave Jacob her handmaid, Zilpah, who bore two more sons called Gad and Asher. Leah then gave birth to three more children. They were Issachar, Zebulun and a daughter named Dinah. Finally God listened to Rachel and blessed her with a son called Joseph who became Jacob’s favourite son.
Jacob become Israel
After the birth of Joseph, Jacob decided it was time for them to move on from staying with Laban. He left with all of his family, servants and flocks of animals. They travelled through the wilderness of Canaan. When Jacob arrived in Bethel, in Canaan, God appeared to him and blessed him. He said that his descendants would be blessed and would make a great nation. God also changed Jacob’s name to Israel so the descendants of Jacob and the great nation is the nation of Israel.
As they travelled on from Bethel, Rachel went into labour and gave birth to her second son, Benjamin. She died in childbirth and was buried near Bethlehem. Jacob ended up settling in the land of Canaan with all of his sons and household. Jacob made a coat of many colours for Joseph because he was his favourite son, which made all of Joseph’s brothers very jealous of him. As a result, they sent Joseph away to Egypt but told Jacob that Joseph had been killed. Joseph was in Egypt for around 22 years until his brothers went there for food during a famine. Joseph tricked and tested his brothers and eventually he revealed his identity. Joseph asked his family to come and live in Egypt so Jacob and all his household came and were reunited with Joseph. Jacob lived for a further 17 years in Egypt and died at the age of 147.