JACOB Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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Jacob is the third Biblical patriarch. Jacob was the son of Isaac, the grandson         
of Abraham, and the twin brother of Esau. Jacob played a major part in some of           
the later events in the Book of Genesis.                                                 
Jacob had twelve sons by his two wives Leah, Rachel and two concubines Bilhah,           
Zilpah, and thus sired the twelve Tribes of Israel. His sons were Reuben, Simeon,       
Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, and Benjamin.         
Jacob , together with his older brother Esau, was born to Isaac and Rebecca             
after 20 years of marriage, at which time his father was 60 (Genesis 25:26), and         
Abraham was already 160 years old. He and his older brother Esau were markedly           
different in appearance and behavior. Esau was a ruddy hunter, while Jacob was a         
gentle man who "dwelled in tents," interpreted by many biblical commentators as         
a mark of his studiousness and reserved personality.                                     
During Rebecca's pregnancy, "the children struggled together within her" (Genesis       
25:22). According to Rashi, whenever Rebecca passed a house of Torah study,             
Jacob would struggle to get out; whenever she passed a temple of idolatry, Esau         
would struggle to get out. Fearful of the excessive movement, Rebecca questioned         
God about the tumult and learned that she was to give birth to two children who         
were twins, who would become the respective founders of two very different               
nations. They would always be in competition, the elder would serve the younger,         
meaning one's success is attained at the expense of the other. She did not tell         
her husband Isaac about this prophecy, but kept it in mind.                             
Esau was the firstborn. His brother Jacob was born immediately afterwards, and           
was grasping Esau's heel. His name, Ya'akov (יעקב), derives from the Hebrew root     
"עקב," "heel." Commentators explain that Jacob was trying to hold Esau back from     
being the firstborn, and in that way claim the Abrahamic legacy for his own self.       
According to the text, Jacob was favoured by his mother, while Esau was favoured         
by his father.