Jacob [Jā'cob]—he that supplanteth or followeth after.
1. The second son of Isaac and Rebekah, and a twin brother of Esau. Jacob appeared a short time after Esau and is therefore called the younger brother. Isaac was sixty years old when Jacob and Esau were born.
Jacob is an outstanding illustration of the presence and conflict of the two natures within a believer. Similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, Jacob is good and bad; he rises and falls, yet in spite of his failures was a chosen instrument.
Jacob’s character then, is full of interest and difficulty because of its weakness and strength. His is not a life to be described by a single word as, for example, the faith of Abraham or the purity of Joseph. Jacob seemed to have a many-sided life. He was a man of guile, yet a man of prayer. Inconsistencies are everywhere. His life began with a prophetic revelation of God to his mother, but Jacob’s early years were a singular mixture of good and bad—the bad being very bad.
I. Jacob was the victim of his mother’s partiality. “Rebekah loved Jacob” (Gen. 25:28). This fault must be kept in mind as we judge his character.
II. Jacob was selfish. When his brother came in from the fields faint with hunger, Jacob would not give him food without bargaining over it.
III. Jacob was naturally crafty and deceitful. He violated his conscience when he allowed his mother to draw him away from the path of honor and integrity. He practiced deception upon his blind father with the covering of kid skins. Then he told a deliberate lie in order to obtain a spiritual blessing. He further sinned upon most sacred ground, when he blasphemously used the name of the Lord to further his evil plans.
The thoroughness with which he carried out his mother’s plan is one of the worst features in the life of this misguided son. “Had it been me,” says Martin Luther, “I would have dropped the dish.” It would have been better for Jacob had he dropped that dish of venison. But his proficiency in evil doing is to be despised.
In the life of this sharp trader who mended his ways, for there were two remarkable spiritual experiences in his life—at Bethel and Peniel—the preacher might find the following points suggestive: Jacob cheated (Gen. 25:29-34); deceived (Gen. 27:1-29); was compelled to flee (Gen 27:43; 28:1-5); was brought on to a higher level (Gen 28:10-22); had a romance spoiled, and was paid back in his own coin of deception (Gen. 29:15-30); was affectionate (Gen. 29:18); was industrious (Gen. 31:40); was prayerful (Gen. 32:9-12, 24-30); received a divine call to the promised land (Gen. 31); was disciplined by God through affliction (Gen. 37:28; 42:36); was a man of faith (Heb. 11:21); was blessed with sons who became the foundation of a nation. The Hebrew nation is spoken of as “the sons of Jacob” and “the children of Israel” (Gen. 48; 49; Num. 24:19).
2. The father of Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matt. 1:15, 16).