Hello! My name is Jacob. I was the answer to my father’s prayer (Genesis 25:21) but became the favorite son of my mother (Genesis 25:28). Actually Jacob is my nickname because when my brother was born I was holding onto his heel (Genesis 25:26) as if trying to take hold of what was his and make it mind. I did that after birth with our birthright (Genesis 25:29-34) and my father’s blessing (Genesis 27:1-29). Later God changed my name to Israel, though (Genesis 32:28).
Like my grandfather Abraham, I traveled around a lot. I went from Beersheba to Bethel (Genesis 28:10-22), then to Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20), back to Bethel (Genesis 35:6-7) and to Hebron (Genesis 35:27). Also like Abraham, I built altars where I lived as I continued to worship and serve the God of Abraham and Isaac. Eventually I ended up moving to Egypt with my son Joseph. I did there at a very advanced age (Genesis 46-49).
My life was, for the most part, quiet and uneventful. There were some times of great excitement and activity, though, like when I went to Haran in Mesopotamia. I was escaping the wrath of my brother Esau for stealing the blessing my father wanted to give to him. I went to my uncle Laban’s home (Genesis 28:10). On the way, at Bethel, I had a dream of a staircase reaching from earth to heaven with angels going up and down on it. God reiterated to me the promises He had given to Abraham, my grandfather, and Isaac, my father.
While in Haran I married sisters: Rachel and Leah. I had four sons from Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Rachel was jealous and wasn’t having children so she gave me her servant Bilhal to have children for her. With her I had Dan and Naphtali. Leah then did the same thing, giving me her servant Zilpah, with whom I had Gad and Asher. Then Leah herself had Issachar and Zebulun. Finally Rachel was able to have children and had Joseph and Benjamin. I also had one daughter, Dinah. From these sons came the twelve tribes of Israel. Levi became the priestly tribe so wasn’t counted among the tribes. To fill his place the two sons of Joseph, my grandsons, Ephraim and Manassah, each became a tribe. There was no tribe of ‘Joseph,’ but one from each of his sons.
Returning from my long stay in Haran, at the ford of the River Jabbok, I had another strong encounter with God Himself. I was fearful of my upcoming reunion with Esau (Genesis 32:7). I found myself suddenly engaged in a physical wrestling match with God which mirrored the inner wrestling going on in my soul with Him. For the first time in my life I could not conquer something in my own strength. Submitting to God’s greater power, I found the peace I had been seeking. Because of this God changed my name to Israel which means “Prince of God.” Jacob called the place Peniel – because he saw God face to face and lived (Genesis 32:30).
The impact of these experiences stayed with me and molded me into the man of God I was becoming. At the end of my life, when I was quite old (Genesis 47:28), I called my twelve sons around my bed to tell them what should befall them in the last days (Genesis 49:1). I talked to them in the order of their birth. My strongest words were spoken to Reuben, the firstborn, whom I admonished because of his sin (Genesis 49:3-4), and Simeon and Levi, whom I cursed for their anger and cruelty (Genesis 49:5-7). My greatest blessing from God was bestowed on Judah, who would be praised by his brothers and whose tribe would be the source of royalty (Genesis 49:8-12).
Following this scene, I died and was embalmed (Genesis 49:33; 50:2). By my own request my body was carried back to the land of Canaan and was buried in the family burial ground in the cave of the field of Machpelah (Genesis 49:29-32; 50:13). Learn from my life the importance of letting God break your self-sufficiency so you learn to depend only on Him. It’s hard but very necessary.