The Names and Their Meaning (§ 1).
    Jacob's Youth (§ 2).
    His Life in Haran (§ 3).
    His Later Life (§ 4).
    Characteristics of the Sources (§ 5).
    Jacob's Character (§ 6).
    Historicity of the Narratives (§ 7).

1. The Names and Their Meaning.

Jacob, or Israel, the son of Isaac, was the ancestor who gave his name to the covenant people. Jacob means " one who holds the heel " or "one who treads on the heel" (Gen. xxv. 26), and is also explained as "one who overreaches" (cf. Jer. ix. 4) by means of his practised cunning (Gen. xxvii. 36). Israel, on the other hand, which became the designation of the people, was given him by God as a special distinction after he had proved his courage and gained a victory (Gen. xxxii. 28). Jacob is probably an abbreviation of Jacob-el, for, among the Palestinian towns captured by Thothmes III. and mentioned in his inscriptions at Karnak, names appear which may be recognized as Ya'kobh-el and Yoseph-el, a conclusion all the more probable since the name Ya'kubh-ilu appears in Babylonian contract-tablets. The inference usually drawn from this inscription that in the sixteenth century the Jacob or Joseph tribes were already established in Canaan is over-hasty, since the analogy of the other names indicates rather that communities are meant. Bäthgen explains Jacob-el as "El recompenses"; an alternative is "El wrestles" (Gen. xxxii. 24 sqq.).

2. Jacob's Youth.

Jacob's youth was one untiring effort to secure for himself the birthright which belonged to his twin-brother Esau. This struggle had even a prenatal origin (Gen. xxv. 22-23). In contrast with the coarse and violent Esau, Jacob was quiet and peaceable (Gen. xxv. 27), but shrewd, and able to use cleverly the weaknesses of his more sensuous brother (verse 29). In this he was aided by his mother, while the hunter found favor in the eyes of his father. Isaac; deceived by his wife, unwittingly bestowed the blessings of birthright upon Jacob (Gen. xxvii.; see ISAAC), who in consequence was forced to abandon for a time the land of promise, and transferred his abode to Haran, the native land of his mother. In the course of his wanderings Jacob came to Bethel, where Yahweh appeared to him in a dream.

3. His Life in Haran.

The second period of Jacob's life was passed with his kindred in Haran, where he founded his house. He asked of Laban as a reward for seven years' labor the hand of his beautiful daughter, Rachel; but her sister Leah was substituted by the mercenary father, and Jacob was forced to serve seven years longer to gain his beloved Rachel. The latter, however, was unfruitful, while Leah brought him four sons: Reuben , Simeon, Levi, and Judah. As a result of a substitution of slaves for their mistresses, Jacob's family was further increased by four sons, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. These were followed by two sons of Leah, Issachar and Zebulun. At last Rachel bore her husband's favorite son, Joseph. As God's blessing seemed to be attached to Jacob's person, Laban was loath to lose his services; to his own disadvantage, however, for although the recompense which Jacob required might seem small, it always turned out to be unexpectedly large, and though Laban frequently changed the conditions (Gen. xxxi. 7), the advantage was always with Jacob. The tense relations between them hastened Jacob's secret departure with his wives and goods. Laban pursued and overtook him at the mount of Gilead, but, although embittered by the loss of his household gods, which Rachel had carried off without husband's knowledge, he was forced to settle the strife amicably. The name Gilead (explained as Gal'edh, "hill of witness," Gen. xxxi. 48) was from this time a reminder of the treaty thus concluded.

4. His Later Life.

A third phase of Jacob's history began with his reentrance into the promised land and his settlement in the heart of the country. But first an understanding with Esau was necessary, and then to take possession of the disputed heritage, for which a severe struggle was required. Jacob succeeded by the help of spiritual powers (Gen. xxxii. 24 sqq.). After such a victory no human being could do him harm. The dreaded Esau received him kindly and retired again to the desert land of the Edomites,


while Jacob established himself in Shechem, with whose inhabitants, however, his sons became involved in bloody quarrels. This induced Jacob to depart at first toward Bethel, where he made drink-offerings, according to his vow, where also the Lord appeared to him and gave him the covenant blessings. On their further journey, the last stage of which was Hebron, Rachel bore Benjamin and died in giving him birth. In Hebron Isaac, who died at an advanced age, was buried by Jacob and Esau. After residing for some time in Hebron, while his sons, with their flocks, wandered through the land north of Shechem, Jacob, in his old age, transferred his abode to Egypt, where his son Joseph (q.v.) had attained great honors. In Beersheba the patriarch received a last favorable message from his God (Gen. xlvi. 1 sqq.). In Egypt he was received with favor by the Pharaoh, and lived in Goshen (according to Gen. xlvii. 28, P) for seventeen years, dying at the age of 147. He was embalmed after the Egyptian method, and brought to the family tomb and buried there by his children.

5. Characteristics of the Sources.

The three sources, J, E, and P, appear in the part of Genesis which contains the Jacob narratives, to which P contributed the least. J and E do not always easily separate, since they followed practically the same traditions; but in J the cunning of Jacob seems the motive of action, while in E miraculous interpositions and appearances in dreams are more common. In JE the hatred of Esau because of his exclusion from his father's blessing is given as the cause of Jacob's emigration to Haran; in P the reason assigned is dissatisfaction on the part of his parents with the Hittite marriages of Esau (xxvii. 46-xxviii. 9). The two blessings, xxvii. 27 sqq. (JE) and xxviii. 3 (P), are independent, as are the accounts of Esau's departure to Seir, xxxvi. 6-7 (P) and xxxii. 3 sqq. (JE), and of the time of the change of name, xxxii. 28 (J) and xxxv. 10 (P). These divergences show that independent traditions were transmitted which are followed by the different sources. The chronology of Jacob's life, derived mostly from P, offers some difficulties. Thus, if from the 130 years of xlvii. 9 (Jacob's age when presented to Pharaoh) be deducted the seven fruitful and two unfruitful years, the thirty years of Joseph when the fruitful years began (xli. 46) and the fourteen years passed by Jacob in Haran before Joseph's birth, it would appear that when he left his father's house he was about seventy-seven years of age, though chaps. xxviii. sqq. evidently regard him as a young man. The three elements of the patriarchal blessing in xlviii.-xlix. combine supplementary details: xlvii. 3-6 is assigned to P, xlviii. 15-16, 20-22 to E, and xlix. to J. The post-Mosaic authorship assigned to xlix. (time of Samson by Bleek and Ewald, time of David by Knobel, much later than this by Stade) does not take account of the way in which the Levites are treated.

6. Jacob's Character.

Jacob's character is best illustrated by his double name. He is called Jacob because of his dexterity and cunning, which always give him the advantage over the physically stronger Esau and over the shrewd Laban. On account of his weakness and his subordinate position Jacob accommodates himself to the will of the stronger, yet always succeeds in attaining his end by courage and tenacity. However much dissimulation there was in his conduct, Jacob did not employ it for sordid gain. As Israel he strives for the blessing of God because he has recognized therein the highest good. He devotes his whole energy to obtaining the blessings of the covenant (Hos. xii. 4-5). It is true that Jacob's character does not show the comparative straightforwardness of Abraham, and therefore he can not be regarded as a model for all time. He is not an ideal, even according to the standard of Israelitic ethics, but a man whose sinful nature struggles against his better self; but he was purified by the suffering which made his life a sadder one than that of his forefathers (xlvii. 9). What raises Jacob above himself is his reverent, indestructible longing for the salvation of his God, which after long struggles attains complete satisfaction.

7. Historicity of the Narratives.

Whether, and in what sense, Jacob is historical may be a subject of debate. The simplicity and the unconventional sincerity of these recitals speak in favor of genuine tradition rather than of heroic poetry. Some of the alleged facts would surely never have been invented in later times, as, for example, the contemporaneous marriage with two sisters (cf. Rev. xviii. 18), or the distinction awarded to Bethel and the sanctuary there which was such an object of aversion to the prophets of the eighth century. The attempt to derive the history of Jacob from nature-myths has proved a total failure. While, in general, only the episode on the Jabbok (Gen. xxxii.) is looked upon as a possible survival of this nature, Popper has undertaken to show that Jacob-Israel is the Asiatic Herakles-Melcarth Palaemon, i.e., the victoriously striving sun-god, and has vainly endeavored to bring all the details of the Biblical narrative into accord with this myth. More probable is the hypothesis of an eponymous ancestor. In this way Ewald saw in Jacob a vigorous Hebrew people which had emigrated from Mesopotamia (cf. ARAM, ARAMEANS; Deut. xxvi. 5, R.V., margin), coalesced with those of the same race who had settled in Canaan at an earlier period, and then proceeded to dominate them, while elements of common ancestry (Esau), which had entered Canaan at an earlier period, gradually withdrew farther and farther toward the south. With the Aramean neighbors to the north, behind the mountains of Gilead (Laban), the tribe of Jacob had many clashes, which are described in the history of Laban. Stade considers that Israel was a tribe which lived on the Jabbok, and that their chief city was Mahanaim; Jacob, on the other hand, was a tribe of the country west of the Jordan, which lived in the neighborhood of Bethel. According to him Rachel, Leah, Isaac, Joseph, and his brothers were so many different clans, while the combination of two tribes was represented as a marriage, etc. According to the dominant opinion, later conditions are reflected in the stories of the patriarchs. Wellhausen believes that the popular recitals in regard to Jacob and Esau must have taken form in the


earlier period of the kingdom of Israel, after the subjugation of Edom. For Bernstein the patriarch Jacob and his history were invented after the separation of the kingdom in order to glorify Bethel; and Seinecke even sees in the despondency of the returning Jacob a reflex of the fear of the exiles on their return from Babylon, and in the treatment of the Shechemites by Simeon and Levi (xxxiv.) the reproof of the Samaritans by Ezra. Apart from such fancies, it would never be possible to transform the natural and characteristic figures of an Abraham or a Jacob into national experiences or the disappointments of a tribe. Mere invention being out of the question, the alternative is to assume that the stories deal with real persons. Names such as Jacob-el and Isra-el, which include the name of a divinity, should be regarded, like the name of Abraham, as originally individual rather than ethnic. In this way Kittel, Klostermann, and Ewald have looked upon the bearers of these names as chiefs who stood at the head of nomadic tribes. In the traditions of that far-away time only a few prominent personalities stand out, while the tribe which accompanied them in their wanderings appears only in details of the narrative. The historical standard used in reference to later periods may not be applied to primitive traditions; but, just as little should their essentially historical character be denied as being, in the main, faithful pictures of the time of the first residence of the fathers in the land of promise.


BIBLIOGRAPHY; J. A. Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum, i. 942-943, Königsberg, 1711; C. von Lengerke, Kenaan, pp. 290 sqq., ib. 1844; L. Diestel, Der Segen Jakobs, Brunswick, 1853; H. Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, i. 412 sqq., 489 sqq., Hanover, 1864, Eng, transl., i. 341-362, London, 1883· K. Kohler, Der Segen Jakobs, Berlin, 1867; A. N. Obbard, The Prophecy of Jacob, Cambridge, 1867: A. Bernstein, Ursprung der Sagen von . . . Jakob, Berlin, 1871; J. Hamburger, Real-Encyklopädie des Judenthums, i. 543 sqq, Neustrelitz, 1874; A. Köhler, Biblische Geschichte Altes Testamentes, i. 136 sqq., Erlangen, 1875; L. Seinecke, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, i. 40 sqq., Göttingen, 1876; J. Popper, Ursprung des Monotheismus, pp. 346 sqq., Berlin, 1879; C. von Orelli, O. T. Prophecy, Edinburgh, 1885; R. Kittel, Geschichte der Hebräer, i. 122 sqq., Gotha, 1892 Eng. transl., London, 1895; W. Staerk, Studien zur Religions- und Sprachge-schichte des A. T., i. 77-83, ii. 1-13 Berlin 1899; C. A. Briggs, Messianic Prophecy, New York, 1902; DB, ii. 526-535; EB, ii. 2306-12; JE, vii, 19-24, and in general the works on the history of Israel as given under AHAB.


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