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Literally, one who supplants another. The younger of Isaac and Rebecca‘s twin sons; third of the biblical patriarchs. Jacob bought the family birthright from his elder brother, Esau, “for a mess of pottage,” and with his mother’s help received the blessing of the firstborn from his father, whose eyes were dimmed by age. Jacob then fled from Esau’s anger to his mother’s father, Bethuel, in Padan Aram. On his way he slept in a field with a stone for his pillow and had a strange dream: he saw a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending it. God promised Jacob that he would inherit the land upon which he had slept. When Jacob arose in the morning, he called the place Bethel, meaning “House of God.”

In Haran, Jacob served his uncle Laban for twenty years, marrying Laban’s two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Then he started back to the land of his fathers, taking with him his wives and children, his flocks and rich possessions. On the banks of the river Jabbok he wrestled all night with an angel and received the name of Israel. His brother Esau came to meet him, and Jacob made peace with him. Later, on the way to Bethel, God appeared to Jacob and confirmed his promise to give him the Land of Canaan as an inheritance. There, his beloved wife Rachel died giving birth to his twelfth and youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob lived in Canaan with his twelve sons and prospered, until grief came to him in his old age: his favorite son, Joseph, disappeared, having been sold by his envious brothers as a slave to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt. Eventually Jacob and his sons settled in Egypt, where Joseph had become the Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Jacob died in Egypt in his 147th year. His body was borne to Canaan where he was buried in the patriarchal burial place, the cave of Machpelah.

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