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JACOB (Heb. יַעֲקֹב ,יַעֲקוֹב), younger twin son of *Isaac and *Rebekah, third of the *Patriarchs of the people of Israel. His father was 60 years old at the time of Jacob's birth, which occurred after 20 years of childless marriage (Gen. 25:20, 26). During a difficult pregnancy, his mother consulted an oracle and was informed by the Lord that she would deliver twins, each of whom was destined to become the founder of a great nation, and that the older would be subordinate to the younger (25:22–23). This oracle plays a vital role in the biography of Jacob, for it serves to remove completely from the realm of nature and to elevate to the level of divine will the issue of his destiny as the heir to the covenant with *Abraham and Isaac. It thus disengages the fact of Jacob's election from the morality of his subsequent actions.

The Birthright

Nothing at all is recorded of Jacob's childhood, except that he emerged from the womb grasping the heel (akev, ʾaqev), a play on the name Ya'akov (Yaʿaqov), of his brother *Esau (25:26). It is said that he was "a mild man who stayed in camp" (25:27), and that he was the favorite of his mother, his father showing preference for his brother (25:28). The first incident reported is Jacob's exploitation of his brother's hunger to purchase the birthright from him in exchange for lentil stew (25:29–34); the second relates to the deception he practiced upon his father to obtain his final blessing (ch. 27). At the instigation of his mother, he took advantage of his father's blindness to masquerade successfully as Esau and so to mislead Isaac into believing that he was actually blessing his older son (27:1–29). For this he earned Esau's murderous enmity (27:41), and Rebekah decided that for his safety he must flee at once to the home of her brother Laban in Haran. Another biblical tradition gives as Jacob's motivation to leave for Haran Rebekah's insistence to Isaac that their son must find a wife within the family and not among the native Hittite women (27:42–46; 28:1–4).

In connection with these two incidents, it should be noted that the disregard of primogeniture and the transference of the birthright from one son to another is proscribed in pentateuchal legislation (Deut. 21:15–17). Inasmuch as biblical law prohibits existing practices, we should not be surprised to find evidence of such practice. A document from the second millennium b.c.e. from the town of *Nuzi reads:

Concerning my son Zirteshup, I at first annulled his relationship, but now I have restored him to sonship. He is the elder son and shall receive a double portion (E.A. Speiser, in aasor, 10 (1930), 39).

Another document records the purchase of the birthright by a younger brother for the price of three sheep (ch Gordon, in ba, 3 (1940), 5), while a tablet from Alalakh actually deals with the prenatal conferral of the birthright (I. Mendelsohn, in basor, 156 (1959), p. 38–40).

His Flight

Jacob's precipitate flight from Beer-Sheba found him at sunset at a place in which he dreamed that God had appeared to him. He saw angels going up and down a stairway which spanned heaven and earth. He then heard the Lord reiterate the promises of land and numerous progeny that He had made to Abraham and Isaac. His offspring would be a source of blessing to the whole earth; he would enjoy divine protection wherever he would be, and would return one day to the land from which he was fleeing (Gen. 28:10–15). Jacob awoke from his sleep, startled to discover the presence of God in that place, which he thereupon dedicated as a sacred site, renaming it *Beth-El. He vowed to turn it into a "house of God" on his safe return and to dedicate a tithe of all his possessions (28:16–22).

His Marriages

Jacob continued his journey to Haran. A chance meeting at a well brought him face to face with his cousin *Rachel. Her father, his uncle *Laban, welcomed him into his home (29:1–15). A month later, he arranged to work for Laban for seven years as the bride-price for Rachel (29:16–20). When, however, the day of the marriage arrived, he discovered that, under the cover of darkness, Laban had substituted his older, less attractive, daughter *Leah for Rachel. Jacob was forced to agree to serve another seven years, after which period he married Rachel (29:21–30). Each of the brides received a maidservant from her father as a wedding gift, Leah's being named *Zilpah, and Rachel's, *Bilhah (29:24, 29). This practice, incidentally, is well attested in the Nuzi archives.

In relating these events at length, it may be supposed that the Scripture's intent was to indicate that the trickery practiced by Laban was the retributive counterpart, measure for measure, of the deception Jacob had perpetrated upon his father. At the same time, the unintended marriage to Leah is clearly to be understood as the determination of divine providence, for from this union issued the two great spiritual and temporal institutions of biblical Israel, the priesthood from Levi and the Davidic monarchy from Judah, both sons of Leah.

The Tribes

All in all, the 20 years that Jacob spent in the service of Laban (31:38, 41) really constituted the formative period in the development of the people of Israel, for all but one of the fathers of the twelve tribes were born during this period. The unloved Leah was blessed with four sons in succession, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah (29:31–35), whereas Rachel remained barren. Like *Sarah before her, she resorted to concubinage (see *Patriarchs) and gave to her husband her maid Bilhah, who bore Dan and Naphtali (30:1–8). Leah, who had had no children for some time, followed her sister's example, and Zilpah became Jacob's concubine, giving birth to Gad and Asher (30:9–13). Leah, herself, was delivered of Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah (30:14–21). Finally, after so many years of barrenness, Rachel gave birth to a son who was named Joseph (30:22–24).

The information concerning the ascription of the tribal fathers to the various wives and concubines is of considerable interest and doubtlessly reflects a very ancient layer of tribal history and interrelationships. First, all the Hebrew tribes must have originated in eastern Syria except for Benjamin, who apparently joined Joseph and the other tribes after the migration to Canaan. Secondly, the six Leah tribes must at one time have constituted a distinct fraternity, while the handmaid tribes must have had subordinate status. The primogeniture of Reuben (as later of *Manasseh) must represent an early, but lost, supremacy in the tribal confederation.

Jacob and Laban

After the birth of Joseph, Jacob decided that the time had come to return home. He struck a bargain with Laban to enable him to build up his own resources for the purpose, but, by means of a stratagem that involved the influencing of the pigmentation of the flocks through visual stimulus (see *Biology) he managed to outwit his father-in-law, and he became the prosperous owner of large, sturdy flocks, camels and asses, as well as maidservants and manservants (30:25–43).

At this point, Jacob aroused the outspoken jealousy of Laban's sons and perceived the changed attitude of Laban toward himself (31:1–2). When a divine revelation ordered him to return to Canaan (31:3; cf. 31:13), he put his case before his wives who gave their consent, stating that their father had no longer any claim to them, since he had sold them and had been paid for them in full (31:4–16). Jacob thereupon assembled his family and his possessions and, taking advantage of Laban's absence on a sheep-shearing mission, stole away. Rachel, without her husband's knowledge, used the opportunity to appropriate her father's household idols (31:17–21).

Three days later, Laban learned of the flight and set off in hot pursuit, catching up with Jacob in the hill country of Gilead. At night in a dream God warned Laban not to harm Jacob. A heated exchange took place, and Laban conducted a fruitless search for his household gods. A treaty of mutual respect was enacted, which included a provision preventing Jacob from taking any more wives. A stone mound was erected to commemorate the occasion and to mark the boundary line separating the two parties (31:22–54).

The grievance of Rachel and Leah about their own positions (Gen. 31:14–16) fits in well with what is known of the inferior position of foreign slaves in the ancient Near East. The reference to the bride-price and its fate clearly accuses Laban either of improvident disposition or embezzlement of the monetary equivalent of Jacob's years of service, rendered in lieu of the payments usually settled by the groom on the bride. The significance of the possession of the household gods (Gen. 31:19, 30–35) is unclear (see *Genesis), but the fact that a Nuzi adoption contract makes specific provision for their consignment shows that it was an issue of great importance. Finally, the restrictive marriage clause imposed upon Jacob (31:50) finds its parallels in both adoption and marriage documents.

The Return

Jacob now continued his journey homeward, encountering angels at Mahanaim (32:2–3 (1–2)). It is possible that this incident was once part of a fuller story now so truncated as to defy reconstruction. It does serve, however, to round out the cycle of events that began with the flight from Canaan, which also involved the appearance of angels (cf. 28:12).

Uncertain of the reception he would get from Esau, Jacob then made extensive preparations to mollify his brother as well as to prepare for the worst (32:4–24 (3–23)). After fording the Jabbok at Penuel, and sending his family and belongings ahead, he found himself wrestling with a mysterious stranger, a divine being, who, desperate to get away before dawn, changed Jacob's name to *Israel, but also left him with a dislocated thigh (32:25–33 (24–32)). The confrontation with Esau turned out to be cordial (33:1–16), and if Esau had any plans of luring Jacob to Seir, where he might have kept him in a somewhat inferior ("younger brother") status after all, Jacob foiled his plans by brilliant diplomatic evasion. Thus Jacob, instead of trekking southward to Seir was able to proceed south-westward to Succoth, not far from the Jordan. There he built a house and made stalls for his cattle. His next stop was well inside Canaan, at Shechem, where he purchased a plot of land and set up an altar (33:17–20).

The Rape of Dinah

Here at Shechem the rape of Jacob's daughter, *Dinah, by Shechem son of Hamor, the governor, took place. Strongly drawn to the maiden, the young man wished to enter into marriage with her. Jacob's sons, who conducted the negotiations, made the circumcision of all the male population a precondition of agreement. Shechem's fighting manhood being thereby temporarily incapacitated, Simeon and Levi avenged the outrage perpetrated on their sister by butchering the population and plundering the town; and when Jacob rebuked them for jeopardizing his relations with his neighbors, they defended their conduct on grounds of honor (Gen. 34).

This story, the only one in the Bible dealing with Dinah, contains several remarkable features: Jacob plays an unwontedly passive role; Simeon and Levi are depicted as fierce warriors acting in concert, thus reflecting a situation totally at variance with other accounts of tribal history, in which Simeon was the military partner of Judah and settled next to it in the south of Canaan, while Levi took no part in the wars of conquest, possessed no tribal territory, and no particular association with Simeon. Some scholars argue that the narrative of chapter 34 conceals a very ancient attempt on the part of some of the tribes to effect a forcible settlement in the Shechem area. At the other extreme it has been argued that the story is a late polemic directed against intermarriage or the Samaritans.


The next events recorded are connected with Beth-El, the site associated with a fateful moment in Jacob's life (cf. 28:10–22). At divine command, the patriarch and his retinue, after purging themselves of idolatrous emblems, made their way to the town. He built an altar there and received God's blessing renaming him Israel and promising numerous progeny, even royal descendants, as well as future possession of the land. Jacob dedicated the site of the revelation and named it Beth-El in place of Luz (35:1–15). He moved on in the direction of Ephrath, and on the way his beloved Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin. Jacob set up a pillar over her grave (35:16–20). It is not clear whether the succeeding brief notice of Reuben's incest with Rachel's maid Bilhah, his father's concubine (35:22), is connected with this or not. It is most likely part of an originally larger account explaining the lost preeminence of the tribe of Reuben (cf. 49:3–4; Deut. 33:6; I Chron. 5:1). Jacob finally arrived at Hebron to meet his father once again. He participated with Esau in Isaac's burial here (Gen. 35:27–29), being then 120 years of age (25:26; 35:28).

Jacob and Joseph

The subsequent biography of Jacob is wholly interwoven with the life of *Joseph, his favorite son (37:3–4). He seems to have taken seriously the latter's boyish dreams of greatness even as he berated him for them (37:10–11), and his grief at Joseph's disappearance was inconsolable (37:33–35). In view of the tendency of Abraham (12:20) and Isaac (26:1) to move to Egypt in time of famine, it is of interest that Jacob chose instead to send his sons with the exception of Benjamin, to buy food there (42:1–4). The Egyptian official with whom they had to deal was, unbeknown to them, no other than Joseph, who insisted that if they came again they must bring their remaining brother with them. Very reluctantly, Jacob, under the pressure of famine and the importuning of his sons, had to agree (43:1–15).

When Joseph finally revealed his true identity and sent for his father, a divine revelation at Beer-Sheba granted the patriarch permission to migrate to Egypt and also promised to make him there into a great nation which would eventually return to the land (chapter 45; 46:1–4). Jacob thereupon traveled to Egypt with his entire family and possessions (46:5–27) and had a tearful reunion with Joseph (46:29). In an audience with Pharaoh he gave his age at this time as 130 and described his years as having been "few and hard" (47:7–10). He settled in the region of Goshen (47:6), or Rameses (47:11), where he stayed for 17 years (47:28).

As Jacob's end approached, he made Joseph swear to bury him in the ancestral vault in Canaan (47:29–31; 49:29–33). He then blessed Joseph's two sons, *Manasseh and *Ephraim, and transferred the birthright from the older to the younger (48:1–20). In his closing words to Joseph he again predicted the ultimate return to Canaan, and he bestowed on him a parting gift mysteriously described as having been "wrested from the Amorites by my sword and bow" (48:21–22), a reference to some event in the life of the patriarch not otherwise recorded.

Jacob then blessed each of his sons individually, after which he died at the age of 147 (ch. 49). He was embalmed, given a state funeral, and buried by his sons in the cave of Machpelah (50:1–13).

The Other Biblical Traditions

Surprisingly, little about Jacob is recorded outside the Genesis traditions. In the rest of the Bible he is chiefly mentioned in combination with the other two Patriarchs, particularly in reference to the covenant (e.g., Ex. 2:24; 32:13; Lev. 26:42; Deut. 29:12; ii Kings 13:23). The descent to Egypt is recorded in Joshua (24:4) and Psalms (105:23). The divine love of Jacob and the rejection of Esau is stressed by Malachi (1:2–3), while Ezekiel singles out the connection between the Patriarch and the land, and refers to Jacob as God's servant (28:25; 37:25; cf. Isa. 41:8; 44:1).

The sole instance of a possible variant tradition independent of Genesis comes from *Hosea, who deprecates Jacob's attempt to supplant Esau in the womb, who places the struggle with the angel at Beth-El, before his servitude to Laban instead of at Penuel on the way home, and who has the angel weep and implore Jacob (12:4–5). He also refers to Jacob's flight and servitude (12:13). It is more likely, however, that Hosea is reinterpreting the Genesis traditions for his own didactic purposes. Similarly, it is doubtful that any independent traditions are behind such divine epithets as "the God of Jacob" (e.g., ii Sam. 23:1; Isa. 2:3), "the Holy One of Jacob" (Isa. 29:23), "the King of Jacob" (Isa. 41:21), "the Mighty One of Jacob" (e.g., Gen. 49:24; Isa. 49:26), "the El of Jacob" (Ps. 146:5).

The Name

The biblical sources suggest two etymologies for the name. Genesis 25:26 treats it as a denominative verb derived from עָקֵב (ʿaqev; "a heel"); Genesis 27:36 involves a root עקב (ʿqb; "to overreach," "to supplant"; cf. Jer. 9:3; Hos. 12:4). Both clearly imply wordplays. The name, however, seems to have been widespread in the second millennium b.c.e., and it appears in one form or another in Akkadian, Old South Arabic, and Aramaic texts. A theophoric form, Yaʿqub-ʿal, is transcribed as Yʿqbhr, the name of a Hyksos prince, in a 17th-century Egyptian source, and as Yʿqbʿr in a 15th-century geographic list of Thutmose III. It is most likely that the Hebrew is a shortened theophoric name, perhaps meaning, originally, "may God protect."

[Nahum M. Sarna]

In the Aggadah

Since Jacob was renamed Israel (Gen. 32:28) and was destined to be the ancestor of the twelve tribes, his eventful life inevitably became, in the aggadah, symbolic of the later history and tribulations of the Jewish people. Likewise, Jacob's principal antagonists: Esau (Edom; cf. Gen. 25:30; 36:1), Laban "the Aramean" (Gen. 31:20), and even the angel who wrestled with Jacob (Gen. 32:24ff.), became the prototypes of the Roman (later Christian) world. The role played by Herod the Edomite "slave" (bb 3b–4a) and his family in subjecting Judea to the Roman yoke, and the close similarity of "Aramean" and "Roman" (ארמי (Aram. ארמאי) – רֹמַאי although it is also equated with רַמַּאִי, a "cheat"; Gen. R. 70:19), facilitated this identification, which must be regarded as basic for the proper evaluation of the Midrash and aggadah on the subject.

The biblical account, which treats Esau and Laban with a certain degree of understanding, is subjected to a thorough reinterpretation, with a view to discrediting the enemies of Israel, while glorifying Jacob – regarded as virtually identical with the Jewish people. The struggle between Israel and Rome was foreshadowed before Jacob and Esau were born. Even in their mother's womb they were locked in mortal combat, and evinced different desires. Whenever Rebekah passed a synagogue or house of study, Jacob tried to break forth, but when she passed near a pagan house of worship, Esau was struggling to get out (Gen. R. 63:6; cf. Gen. 25:22). The religious contrast between Jew and gentile was thus clearly depicted as a permanent chasm between two irreconcilable civilizations. A similar contrast between Jacob and Esau was also noticeable at their birth, the former being clean, smooth, extraordinarily handsome, and born circumcised; while the latter was hairy and bearded, blood-red in color, and with all his teeth fully developed (Gen. R. 63:7–8; Targ. Ps.-Jon. on Gen. 25:25; arn1 2:12; Tanh. Noah 5; Tanh. B, Gen. 32; Mid. Ps. 9:7). All this was meant to portray the contrast between the spiritual beauty of Israel and the ugliness of the pagan world – its wars and bloodshed, Rome's perennial occupation. Esau's "ruddy" color (Gen. 25:25) was indeed expressly interpreted as signifying that he (i.e., Rome) was "altogether a shedder of blood" (Gen. R. 63:8). While both brothers attended school up to the age of 13 (or, according to one version, 15) – Esau, too, thus being given the chance of studying the Torah – they parted completely once they had reached their religious majority. Jacob studied at the schools of Shem and Eber, and spent all his life in the pursuit of learning; while Esau became a dissipated idolator (Gen. R. 63:10; Yoma 28b; Tanh. B, Gen. 125). Here, too, the future conduct of good Jews and typical Romans was adumbrated.

Despite their explanation of how Isaac was deceived in Esau (Gen. R. 63:10), the rabbis felt that Isaac as well as Abraham who had fathered unworthy sons could not be considered equal in importance to Jacob (Pes. 56a; Gen. R. 68:11; Song. R. 3:6, no. 2) who was regarded as a model of virtue and righteousness (cf. e.g., Mak. 24a), and to whom even the mystery of the messianic redemption had been revealed (Mid. Ps. 31:7). He was, accordingly, the greatest of the patriarchs (Gen. R. 76:1), and even Abraham had been created and preserved from the fire of Nimrod's furnace only for the sake of Jacob who was destined to descend from him (ibid., 63:2; Lev. R. 36:4; Sanh. 19b). Even after his death, Jacob – but not the other patriarchs – was concerned with Israel's fate, suffering with them when they were in trouble, and rejoicing with them when they were redeemed (Mid. Ps. 14:7; pr 41:5). Israel's successes in this world were entirely due to Jacob's merit (Song R. 3:6, no. 2). Hyperbolically, it was said that the entire universe had been created only for the sake of Jacob (Lev. R. 36:4) – here, as so often, a symbol of the entire people of Israel. God Himself had honored Jacob (Israel) by elevating him to a position little lower than that of the angels (Mid. Ps. 8:7), and engraving his image on the divine throne (Gen. R. 82:2).

For all that, the rabbis could not ignore the biblical account of Jacob's career, which was bound to raise moral problems. For example, his employment of devious methods to gain the birthright and the blessing of Isaac were open to criticism (cf. Hos. 12:3–4). Rabbinic apologetics, accordingly, endeavored to clear Jacob's good name, while blackening that of Esau. Accordingly, Esau had threatened to kill his mother if he was not permitted to be born first, and it was to save Rebekah that Jacob had agreed to Esau's primogeniture (Mid. Hag. to Gen. 25:22; cf. pr, 12:4). Although this is reported or hinted at only in late Midrashim, it may be an allusion to the notorious case of matricide committed by Nero, who contrived the murder of his mother Agrippina (Suetonius, Nero 34:5; Tacitus, Annals 14:1–13; Jos., Ant., 20:153; Wars, 2:250).

Jacob's desire to have the birthright was not influenced by any selfish motives, but by his wish to be privileged to offer the sacrifices, at that time the prerogative of the firstborn (Gen. R. 63:13; Num. R. 4:8). Even so, it was only because of Esau's manifest unsuitability for a spiritual office that Jacob was willing to sacrifice his life for the spiritual privileges of the birthright (ibid.). Hence, God Himself had assisted him to obtain blessings (Gen. R. 65:17–19; Tanh. B, Gen. 134f.). Moreover, when Jacob went in to his father, "the Garden of Eden entered with him"; but when Esau came in, "Gehenna went in with him" (Gen. R. 65:22; 67:1–3; Tanh. B, Gen. 141).

Isaac, too, had hesitated about conferring the blessing upon Esau, and had actually suspended the decision as to who was to be the recipient (Gen. R. 65:13). Even when he said, "Your brother came in with guile and took your blessing" (Gen. 27:35), what he really meant was that Jacob had come in with "wisdom" and "received" (i.e., was duly granted) what was due to him (Targ. Onk., and Targ. Yer., codex Neofiti I, ad loc.; Gen. R. 67:4; Tanh. B, Gen. 143). Any doubts Isaac may have had were dispelled when he learned that Esau had sold his birthright to Jacob (Gen. R. 67:2). Isaac thereupon confirmed Jacob's blessing (Gen. R. 67:12; Tanh. B, Gen. 143; cf. Gen. 28:1). According to another view, however, Isaac had actually sought to curse Jacob, but had been restrained by God (Gen. R. 67:1–3). Isaac had also made it clear that Jacob's supremacy was conditional on his merits (Gen. R. 67:7), and he was, therefore, sharply criticized in the Midrash (ibid.).

Only occasionally is Jacob criticized in rabbinic literature. Thus, Esau's "exceedingly great and bitter cry" (Gen. 27:34) had been punished in the days of Mordecai who likewise wailed "with a great and bitter cry" (Esth. 4:1; Gen. R. 67:4). Again, when Jacob rebuked Leah for aiding and abetting Laban's act of deception (cf. Gen. 29:23), she retorted, "Did not your father call you 'Esau,' and you answered him?!" (Gen. R. 70:19). Jacob is also criticized for having hidden his daughter Dinah from Esau's eyes at the time of his meeting with his brother on his return to Canaan. Jacob's fear that "this wicked man" might want to marry her is dismissed as unjustified prejudice; for he should have given her to his brother for a wife (Gen. R. 76:9). The purpose of this Midrash was apparently to encourage older brothers to give their daughters to younger brothers in marriage, thus retaining the family's property undiminished and its purity of blood unsullied.

Jacob's meeting with Esau after his return from Aram is embellished with numerous rabbinic comments, the burden of which is that Esau retained his undying hatred, so that Jacob had good reason to be afraid of him. The messengers sent by Jacob to Esau (Gen. 32:3) were in reality angels, and their huge numbers terrified Esau (Gen. R. 74:17; 75:10). Esau's reconciliation with Jacob (Gen. 33:4) was unreal. On the contrary, Esau had tried to bite his brother whose neck, however, had become like marble (Gen. R. 78:9). According to another view, however, Esau kissed Jacob "with all his heart," being temporarily compassionate (ibid.) Jacob's appeasement of Esau by repeatedly addressing him as "my lord" is condemned in the Midrash as humiliating to Jacob's dignity (Gen. R. 75:2, 11). The purpose of this homily was no doubt to discourage excessive cringing before the Romans.

Laban, described as "the master of deceivers" (Gen. R. 75:5), is treated in rabbinic literature with even greater disdain than Esau. He is the personification of greed, and even when he kissed and embraced Jacob (Gen. 29:13), he did so only to find out if he had any gems hidden on his body or in his mouth (Gen. R. 70:13). Jacob was well aware that Laban was a swindler (cf. ibid.; Meg. 13b), and took the utmost precautions in stipulating conditions with him, but all to no avail (Gen. R. 70:17). Jacob's charge that Laban had changed his wages ten times (Gen. 31:7, 41) was homiletically multiplied by the rabbis to no less than 100 deceptions (Gen. R. 74:3). Yet, despite Jacob's anger with Laban (Gen. 31:36), it never came to blows and violence, and Jacob did his best to appease Laban (Gen. R. 74:10).

An apologetic tendency is also evident in the midrashic interpretation of Jacob's relations with *Rachel. Although kissing a strange girl was considered indecent, Jacob's kissing of Rachel (Gen. 29:11) was excused as having been a permissible act, since she was his kinswoman (Gen. R. 70:12). In fact, so far from being lascivious, Jacob had never experienced nocturnal discharge (Gen. R. 79:1) and was in fact not subject to the evil impulse (bb 17a). Jacob's demand that Rachel be given to him, "so that I may cohabit with her" (Gen. 29:21), though superficially shameful "even the most dissolute does not use such language" – was nevertheless defended on the ground that Jacob's real purpose was the laudable desire to beget the 12 tribal ancestors (Gen. R. 70:18; Mid. Ag. ad loc.). Only mild criticism is leveled at Jacob for his angry outburst against Rachel when she was begging him for children (Gen. 30:1ff.): "Is that the way to answer a woman in distress?" (Gen. R. 71:7). Some slight disapproval is also voiced in the Midrash against Jacob's dislike of Leah (Gen. 29:31), who was therefore deliberately blessed with a large progeny, "so that she might be more beloved than Rachel" (Tanh. B, Gen. 153; Ag. Ber. 48 (49):2). A serious flaw was also seen in Jacob's marriage to two sisters (Pes. 119b); for although the Torah had not yet been promulgated, the rabbis considered the patriarchs as having had to observe the entire Law.

Jacob's favorite treatment of Joseph is condemned as a perfect example of what a father must not do – prefer one son to the others – an act which, as in Joseph's case, could lead to disastrous consequences (Shab. 10b; Meg. 16b; Gen. R. 84:8). Jacob's prolonged absence from home – during which he failed to honor his parents – was a serious offense for which he was punished by Joseph's disappearance for an equally long period (Meg. 16bff.). Conceivably, this criticism was directed primarily against young people who left their parents in Palestine and went abroad, especially to Syria and Babylonia, in search of better economic opportunities. Jacob's example was thus meant to discourage this exodus, which assumed alarming proportions during the second and third centuries c.e. More serious in the rabbinic view was Jacob's failure to intercede with God against the Egyptian enslavement of his descendants, and, worse still, his ready agreement that they should be wiped out because of their sins (Shab. 89b; cf Isa. 63:16). Finally, before his death, Jacob had sought to reveal the time of the coming of the Messiah to his sons, but at this point the Divine Presence departed from him (Pes. 56a; Gen. R. 98:2) – no doubt because Jacob's intention was considered unlawful.

For the most part, however, Jacob is depicted as a great and holy man who, among other things, introduced the daily evening prayer (Ber. 26b), and even caused the Egyptian famine to cease as soon as he arrived in Egypt (Tos., Sot. 10:9). Jacob was among those who had tasted of the Garden of Eden in their lifetime and were not subject to the power of the angel of death (bb 17a), but had died through "the kiss of death" (Rashi ad loc.). Indeed, according to one view, Jacob had never died at all (Ta'an. 5b) – evidently an allusion to the immortality of Israel.

[Moses Aberbach]

In Islam

At first, it was not clear to *Muhammad whether Yaʿqūb (Isrāʾīl) was the son of Ishāq or his brother; he therefore adopted an ambiguous expression, "and we gave her (Sarah) the glad tidings of Ishāq, and of Yaʿqūb after Ishāq" (Sura 11:74). Only after his sojourn in Medina did it become evident to him that Jacob's "fathers" were Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac and that he was the father of the Tribes (Sura 2:126–7, 130, 134). Like his ancestors, Jacob also ranks among the prophets (Sura 19:50). Of the children of Isaac, one was upright (Jacob) and the second (Esau) brought misfortune upon himself (Sura 37:113). Jacob is mentioned particularly in connection with the story of *Joseph (Sura 12). Before his death, Jacob cautioned his sons to remain faithful to "the law of Ibrahim" (Sura 2:126). On one occasion, Muhammad mentions the second name of Jacob: Isrāʾīl (Sura 3:87), when he points out that he forbade himself a certain food – probably an allusion to the sciatic nerve (Gen. 32:33). In the other places (in the *Koran) the name of Israel appears as that of the tribe, i.e., Banū Isrāʾīl ("the people of Israel"; e.g., Sura 2:38; 5:74; et al.). In a fragment from the Cairo *Genizah which is attributed to al-Samawʾal, Israel is referred to as "the firstborn of the first" (cf. Ex. 4:22). According to the Arab commentators the origin of the name Isrāʾīl is derived from the fact that he fled from Esau at night.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

In the Arts

The life and career of the patriarch Jacob provide the basis for many literary works and treatments by artists and musicians. The episodes most favored range from Jacob's impersonation of Esau and vision at Beth-El (Gen. 27) to his final journey to Egypt at the invitation of Joseph and Pharaoh (Gen. 45–50). In literature, one of the earliest versions of the story occurs in the 12th-century Ordo de Ysaac et Rebecca et Filiis Eorum, an allegorical drama in which Esau represents the "pharisaical Jews" and Jacob the "faithful Christians." Another work of the Middle Ages was the 13th-century English poem Iacob and Iosep. Interest in the subject revived in the 16th century, particularly in England and Germany, where it inspired numerous stage productions. These include the anonymous verse play Ein lieblich und nuetzbarlich Spil von dem Patriarchen Jacob und seinen zwelff Soenen (Magdeburg, c. 1534); the Meistersinger Hans Sachs's Comedia: Jacob mit seinem bruder Esaw (1550); Jacob und seine zwoelf Soehne (1566), a Styrian church drama by Thomas Brunner; A newe mery… Comedie or Enterlude… treating upon the Historie of Jacob and Esau (London, 1568); and the Comedie von dem Patriarchen Jakob, Joseph und seinen Bruedern (1592) by Adam Zacharias Puschmann, an associate of Hans Sachs. A work sharply contrasting with the medieval Ordo de Ysaac was The Historie of Jacob and Esau (London, 1568; written 1557–58), a lively comedy attributed to Nicholas Udall. Here Jacob was reconfirmed as the righteous Hebrew (i.e., the true Protestant), while Esau was represented as the graceless pagan (i.e., the Catholic Antichrist). Three 17th-century treatments of the theme were the German dramatist Christian Weise's Jacobs doppelte Heyrath (1683); the anonymous Comedia famosa dos successos de Iahacob e Esau (Delft, 699), a Spanish verse play; and the Sephardi writer Isaac Cohen de *Lara's Spanish ballad, "La Fuga de Jaacob de Barsheva," which appeared with his Purim play Aman y Mordochay (Leiden, 1699). In the 18th century, the only writer of note to deal with the subject was the Swiss-German poet and dramatist Johann Jacob Bodmer (1698–1783) in two epics, Jacob und Joseph (1751) and Jacob und Rachel (1752).

The first modern Jewish writer who turned to the theme was the Hebrew poet Feivel Schiffer (c. 1810–1866), whose Shirei Tiferet (1840) retold the Bible story down to Jacob's entry into Egypt. In the late 19th century, the German Protestant playwright Wilhelm Schaefer wrote the drama Jakob und Esau (1896). There has been a significant revival of interest in the subject during the 20th century. The eminent German poet and playwright Gerhart Hauptmann turned to the story of Jacob in his fragmentary drama Das Hirtenlied (1921), as did Waldemar Jollos in his verse play Esau und Jakob (1919). In the first part of his unfinished David trilogy, Jaakobs Traum; ein Vorspiel (1918; Jacob's Dream, 1947), Richard *Beer-Hofmann made a dramatic attempt to justify Israel's universal mission; the play was staged in New York, and in Ereẓ Israel by Habimah in a Hebrew version. Some later works on the theme were Jacob (1925), a novel by the French writer Bernard *Lecache, and Die Geschichten Jaakobs (1933), the first part of Thomas *Mann's tetralogy Joseph und seine Brueder (1933–42). During World War ii, Jacob Knoller published in the U.S. his four-part German drama Verheissung, Schuld und Suehne (1941); the U.S. writer Irving *Fineman his novel Jacob (1941); and the Portuguese poet José Régio his modern mystery play Jacob e o Anjo (1941). Laurence Housman's Jacob's Ladder, one of his Old Testament Plays (1950), sought to denigrate the Hebrew patriarch. Other postwar works include Saint Jacob (1954; Eng. Jacob, 1957), a novel by the French author Jean Cabriès; Een ladder tegen de maan (1957), a drama by the Dutch writer W. Barnard (Guillaume van der Graft); and Ya'akov u-Vanav (1958), a Hebrew novel by Ben-Zion Firer.

The life of the patriarch Jacob, packed with picturesque incident, has provided an equally rich storehouse of material for artists, who have mainly illustrated the episodes of Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28:10–22) and of Jacob and the angel (Gen. 32:24–32). There are several cycles of such episodes, the earliest being the fourth-century mosaic cycle at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. Scenes from the life of Jacob also figure in 12th-century mosaics at Palermo and Monreale in Sicily; and in manuscripts, including the sixth-century Vienna Genesis and the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah. The Renaissance painter Jacopo Bassano (1515–92) painted a pastoral landscape of Jacob and Esau (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). The birth of the twins (Gen. 25:24) was illustrated in 14th-century manuscripts such as the Queen Mary Psalter and the Sarajevo Haggadah, where, in an adjacent scene, Esau is shown hunting (Gen. 25:27). Their birth was also depicted by the Florentine painter Benozzo Gozzoli (1420–1497) in a fresco at the Campo Santo, Pisa. Esau selling his birthright to Jacob (Gen. 25:31–34) is illustrated in the Vienna Genesis, but was not popular in the Middle Ages. From the 17th century onward, there are paintings of the subject by the Spanish artist Murillo (1618–82; Harrach Gallery, Vienna), the Dutch master Hendrik Terbrugger (1587–1629; British Museum), and two ink drawings by *Rembrandt. Isaac blessing Jacob (Gen. 27:27) was also a comparatively rare subject in the Middle Ages, and commoner in the 17th century. However, it is found in fourth-century mosaics at Santa Maria Maggiore, in 13th-century frescoes at Assisi, and in medieval manuscripts, including the 12th-century Hortus Deliciarum and the 14th-century Queen Mary Psalter and Sarajevo Haggadah. The 17th-century Spanish painters Murillo (Hermitage, Leningrad) and Jusepe de Ribera (1588–1652; Prado) were among artists who treated the subject. Raphael (1483–1520) included a study of Isaac's halfhearted blessing of Esau (Gen. 27:39–40) in his frescoes for the Loggia in the Vatican, and there is a painting of the same subject by Rembrandt (Earl Brownlow, Grantham), which has also been thought to represent Isaac blessing Jacob.

Jacob's dream of the ladder was a favorite subject and has often been treated as a pendant to Jacob and the angel or to Moses and the burning bush. The subject first appears in the third-century frescoes of the synagogue at *Dura Europos in Mesopotamia. It is found in Byzantine and western medieval Christian manuscripts, including the Hortus Deliciarum, the 13th-century St. Louis Psalter, and the Sarajevo Haggadah, and also in sculpture and in the mosaics at Palermo and Monreale. In the painting by Raphael in the Loggia in the Vatican, Jacob is shown asleep at the foot of a monumental staircase which, in the grand manner of the Renaissance, replaced the simple ladder of earlier representations. There are paintings of the subject by the Spanish baroque masters Ribera (Prado) and Murillo (Hermitage) and by Rembrandt (Dresden Gallery). The English poet-painter William *Blake depicted the angels ascending and descending on a corkscrew staircase. A modern treatment is that by Marc *Chagall. In the St. Louis Psalter and the 15th-century Breviary of the Duke of Bedford (Bibliothèque Nationale) there are illuminations of Jacob anointing the stone on which he slept (Gen. 28:18).

Jacob's sojourn with his uncle Laban is illustrated by Ribera in a painting of Jacob tending Laban's flocks. His dealings with his two wives have a special significance in medieval Christian iconography, where Leah and Rachel were associated with Martha and Mary, representing the active and the contemplative life. Claude Lorrain (1600–82) painted idyllic landscapes with Jacob and Rachel (Hermitage, Leningrad) and with Jacob and Laban (Dulwich Gallery). The scene in which Jacob, on leaving Laban, divides the flocks with him (Gen. 30:32ff.) is recorded in the fourth-century mosaics at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, and in the sixth-century Vienna Genesis. Jacob's appropriation of Laban's household idols, which were taken and hidden by Rachel (Gen. 31:17ff.), appeared in Raphael's frescoes in the Vatican Loggia and was also a popular subject in the 17th century. It was treated by Murillo (Duke of Westminster collection), the Dutch genre painter Jan Steen (1626–79), and by Rembrandt's teacher, Pieter Lastman (1583–1633).

Another favorite subject was Jacob's struggle with the angel which, in the Middle Ages, received a bewildering variety of symbolic interpretations. One of the commonest was that it represented each man's fight against the forces of evil. In early Christian art it is God Himself who is shown struggling with Jacob. The theme appears in the Vienna Genesis, in an eighth-century fresco in Santa Maria Antica, Rome, and in an 11th-century fresco in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Kiev. It is found in medieval sculpture and in manuscripts such as the St. Louis Psalter. In the Stanza d'Eliodoro in the Vatican there is a painting of the subject by Raphael and Baldassore Peruzzi. Rembrandt produced a remarkable painting of Jacob and the angel (Berlin Museum) and Claude Lorrain made it the occasion for a poetic night landscape (Hermitage, Leningrad). The French romantic artist Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) depicted the struggle in a fresco in the church of Saint Sulpice, Paris, and intended it to represent the artist struggling with Nature in order to wrest her secrets. In the 20th century, the sculptor Sir Jacob *Epstein showed Jacob and the angel locked in a passionate embrace, the subject being also treated by Chagall (Louvre). The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 33:4ff.) was illustrated in a swirling baroque composition by Rubens (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), and there is a painting by Jacopo Bassano of Jacob's return to Canaan (Doges' Palace, Venice).

In music, a "dialogo" (quasi-oratorio), Il vecchio Isaac, by G. Fr. Anerio (publ. 1619), treats the story of Jacob, Esau, and the birthright. The number and importance of works on the subjects of Jacob's Dream, Jacob and Rachel, and Jacob's lament over Joseph is, however, much greater. Some 16th-century motets set the text of the vision, such as Vidit Jacob scalam by Crecquillon (publ. 1556) or O quam metuendus est locus iste by Gallus (publ. 1603). One notable curiosity was the oratorio La Vision de Jacob which Marcel Dupré wrote in 1900 at the age of 14. For the Moscow performances of Richard Beer-Hofmann's Jaakob's Traum by the *Habimah Theater, music was written by M. *Milner; and the play was turned into an opera by the Israel composer Bernard Bergel. An orchestral work, Jacob's Dream, was written by Karol *Rathaus (1941); and in 1949 Darius *Milhaud composed a dance suite for five instruments, Les Rêves de Jacob (op. 294), for the Jacob's Pillow dance festival held in the Massachusetts village of that name. Arnold *Schoenberg's oratorio Die Jakobsleiter, with text by the composer, was begun in 1913 and remained unfinished. This is the first work in which the system of melodic manipulation, which he was to formalize soon afterwards as the "12-tone system," can be discerned. The text is a complex of philosophical ideas generated by, rather than reproducing, the vision of the ladder and Jacob's struggle with the angel (see D. Newlin, in Yuval, 1 (1968), 204–20). The première of the work took place in Vienna in 1961.

The story of Jacob and Rachel is treated in a motet, Da Jakob Labans Tochter nahm, by Joachim à Burck (1599); a "Singspiel" (comic opera), Von Jacob doppelter Heyrath, by Johann Philipp Krieger (1649–1725); and a duodrama, Jakob und Rachel, by J.E. Fuss (1800). It is also found, somewhat unexpectedly, in two Spanish polyphonic songs of the 17th century (Siete años de pastor, no. 18, and Si por Rachel, no. 62, in Romances y letras a tres vozes, ed. by M. Querol Gavald, 1956). For the *Ohel Theater production of Jacob and Rachel, the music was written by Solomon *Rosowsky, and later reworked into an orchestral suite by Julius Chajes. Jacob's word to the angel in the struggle at the Jabbok is the title-text of Bach's Cantata no. 157, Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn (but with "Mein Jesu" added). A motet on the same text, for double choir, was written by Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703) and formerly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach. It was published in English in the 19th century as I Wrestle and Pray. Jacob's mourning over Joseph was set as a motet by many of the chief composers of the 16th century. The works begin with Videns Jacob vestimenta Joseph (Ger., Da Jakob nun das Kleid ansah) or Lamentabatur Jacob, and the list of composers includes Clemens non Papa, Cristobal Morales, Jacob Regnart, and Cosmas Alder (for a "Joseph play" performed at Basle). The message to Jacob that Joseph is alive appears in Orlando di Lasso's Dixit Joseph undecim fratribus. Other works on the theme include J.H. Rolle's oratorio Jacobs Ankunft in Aegypten (1746); Jacobs Heyrath and Jacobs Tod und Begraebnis, nos. 3 and 6 of Johann Kuhnau's Biblische Sonaten for keyboard instrument (1700); and the setting of Jacob's blessing of Judah (Gen. 49:10–42) in Heinrich Schuetz's Geistliche Chormusik (1648).

In Jewish folksong, Jacob appears symbolically in the many settings of Al Tira Avdi Ya'akov ("Fear Not, My Servant Jacob"), often with textual additions in Yiddish, such as Amar Adonai le-Ya'akovyo, foterl, yo (Idelsohn, Melodien, 9 (1932), no. 485). Mordekhai *Ze'ira was the composer of the well-known Israel horah tune Al Tira Avdi Ya'akov, to a poem by Emanuel Harussi.

[Bathja Bayer]


in the bible: C.H. Gordon, in: basor, 66 (1937), 25–27; V. Maag, in: Theologische Zeitschrift, 6 (1957), 418–29; H.L. Ginsberg, in: jbl, 80 (1961), 339–47; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 50; N.M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (1966), 181–210. For further bibl. see *Patriarchs. add. bibliography: S. Niditch, Underdogs and Tricksters (1987); N. Sarna, Genesis jps Torah Commentary (1989). in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; E.E. Halevy, Sha'arei ha-Aggadah (1963), 46–59. in islam; Tabarī, Taʾrīkh, 1 (1357 a.h.), 231–2; Kisāʾī, Qiṣaṣ, ed. by I. Eisenberg (1922), 153–4; H.Z. (J.W.) Hirschberg, Der Dīwān des As-Samauʾal ibn ʿAdijāʾ… (1931), 33–65; Horovitz, in: huca, 2 (1925), 154ff., 181; R. Firestone, "Yaʿḳūb," in: eis2, 11 (2002), 234 (incl. bibl.). in art: E.L. Gigas, Esau og Jakob som dramatiske figurer (1894).


views updated May 23 2018


JACOB , or, in Hebrew, Yaʿaqov, also called Israel; the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. The name Yaʿaqov is generally regarded as an abbreviation of yaʿaqov el, which probably means "God protects" and is attested among the Babylonians in the early part of the second pre-Christian millennium. The Bible relates it to forms of the Hebrew root ʿqv, meaning "heel" and "supplant," pertaining to Jacob's ongoing rivalry with his twin brother, Esau. That struggle originated in the womb, leading their mother Rebecca to seek a divine oracle from which she learned that the younger Jacob would rule over his brother. Esau was born first, with Jacob grasping at his heel (ʿaqev ). The theme of fraternal rivalry continued when, as a young man, Jacob exploited Esau's hunger in order to buy his birthright (bekhorah ) and then stole his brother's blessing (berakhah ) by taking advantage of his father Isaac's blindness during Esau's absence.

A second period in Jacob's life was spent in Haran in northern Mesopotamia, where he fled to escape his brother's wrath. On the way, he had a vision of a stairway with angels climbing from earth to heaven and back again while God promised that his descendants would be numerous and possess the land all around. Jacob thus recognized the spot as God's house (Bethel), the gateway to heaven. In Haran, Jacob worked for his uncle Laban in order to obtain Rachel as a wife. After the stipulated seven years, Laban deceived Jacob by substituting Rachel's older sister Leah under cover of darkness, just as Jacob had exploited his father's inability to see in order to obtain the blessings intended for his older brother Esau.

During his return to Canaan, Jacob engaged in physical conflict with an apparently supernatural being (see Hos. 12:4), after which his name was changed to Israel (Heb., Yisraʾel). Although the historical etymology of this name is uncertain, the Bible explains it as meaning "he who has struggled with divine beings."

The final period of Jacob's life consists of various journeys and focuses primarily on the story of his son Joseph. Jacob eventually died at the age of 147 in Egypt, where he was embalmed before being brought back to Canaan to be buried in the family tomb at Machpelah.

Jacob's role as the third of Israel's patriarchs is central to the biblical account. The proper historical setting for all of the patriarchs is, however, currently a matter of scholarly disagreement. Although a wide range of possible dates have been proposed, most who accept the fundamental historicity of these figures date them to the middle or late Bronze Age on the basis of cultural similarities between the biblical descriptions and what is known of those periods from archaeological and epigraphic discoveries. One striking characteristic of these narratives is the way God is identified with individual patriarchs, as in the title avir yaʿaqov (the "strong one" or perhaps "bull" of Jacob).

Many modern scholars consider the various patriarchal traditions to have come from different tribal groups. Some even regard Jacob and Israel as two originally separate figures, in which case Jacob probably comes from Transjordan (Gilead) and Israel from central Canaan (the region near Bethel and Shechem). These traditions were merged with those relating to Abraham and Isaac as the various tribes of biblical Israel coalesced. As his changed name attests, Jacob symbolizes the northern kingdom as well as the entire people of Israel, a perspective reflected also in the fact that his sons are named for the twelve tribes. Indeed, many actions, such as his entrance into the land and journey to Shechem and Bethel, foreshadow events involving the people as a whole.

Many interpreters have been troubled by the devious ways in which Jacob obtained his position of preeminence. Rabbinic tradition, in which he represented all of Israel even as his rival Esau came to stand for Rome, sought to minimize these negative traits, which seem so evident in the Bible. It must be recognized that from the biblical point of view these actions, whatever their moral character, serve primarily to ensure the fulfillment of God's design indicated even prior to Jacob's birth. Moreover, the Bible clearly describes how Jacob paid for his behavior: he was forced to leave his home, he was deceived by his uncle, he found his daughter raped, his favorite wife died in childbirth, and her son was kidnapped.

See Also

Rachel and Leah.


An excellent survey of modern scholarship on the patriarchs is Nahum M. Sarna's Understanding Genesis (New York, 1966); more recent historical information relating to the date and historicity of these figures is provided by Roland de Vaux's The Early History of Israel, translated by David Smith (Philadelphia, 1978). Rabbinic traditions on Jacob are collected in Louis Ginzberg's The Legends of the Jews, 2d ed., 2 vols., translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin (Philadelphia, 2003). An insightful description of the Jacob story's literary characteristics is contained in Michael A. Fishbane's Text and Texture: Close Readings of Selected Biblical Texts (New York, 1979).

The literary and historical background of Jacob's rivalry with Esau and similar biblical stories is discussed in Frederick E. Greenspahn, When Brothers Dwell Together, The Preeminence of Younger Siblings in the Hebrew Bible (New York, 1994).

Frederick E. Greenspahn (1987 and 2005)


views updated May 18 2018

Jacob in the Bible, a Hebrew patriarch, the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, who persuaded his brother Esau to sell him his birthright and tricked him out of his father's blessing (Genesis 25, 27).

Jacob married his cousin Rachel and (through the deception of their father, his uncle Laban) her sister Leah; it was Rachel's children, his youngest sons Joseph and Benjamin who were dearest to him. His twelve sons became the founders of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel.
Jacob sheep a breed of piebald sheep named originally from the story in Genesis 30:40, in which Jacob, who has herded his uncle Laban's cattle and sheep, is given the speckled and brown animals for his portion.
Jacob's ladder a ladder reaching up to heaven, seen in a dream by Jacob (Genesis 28:12), when he saw the angels of God ascending and descending; it was in the same dream that God spoke to him and promised to him and his descendants the land on which he was then lying. When he woke in the morning he set up the stone which had been his pillow to mark the place, which was later named Bethel.
Jacob's stone a name given to the stone of Scone, said to have been the stone used by Jacob for a pillow when he had the dream of Jacob's ladder.


views updated May 18 2018


JACOB (end of third–beginning of fourth century c.e.), Babylonian-born amora. Jacob was a pupil of *Judah b. Ezekiel, head of the academy of Pumbedita (Av. Zar. 28b, et al.). He transmitted teachings in the name of Hisda (Ber. 29b, et al.). He migrated to Ereḥ Israel where he studied under R. Johanan (Er. 80a; Suk. 12a, et al.). Jacob is frequently referred to as "a certain one of the rabbis" (see Er. 80a and Av. Zar. 28b). He was an associate of Jeremiah (Av. Zar. 13b), discussed problems with Jeremiah b. Tahlifa and frequently explained obscure halakhot to him (bb 60b, et al.). It is related that the day Jacob died stars were seen at midday (mk 25b; but see Dik. Sof. ad loc.). Because there were several amoraim of the same name, at times it is difficult to decide to which one statements in the name of Jacob refer.


Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; Ḥ. Albeck, Mayo la-Talmudim (1969), 248–9.

[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]


views updated May 21 2018

Jacob (Heb., Yaʿakov). Third Hebrew patriarch. Jacob was the younger twin son (with Esau) of Isaac and Rebekah. In the aggadah, the story of Jacob is understood as symbolic of the later history of the Jews—so Esau struggling with Jacob in their mother's womb is interpreted as the conflict between Rome and Israel (e.g. Gen.R. 63. 8).


views updated Jun 11 2018

Jacob Old Testament figure, grandson of Abraham and, by tradition, ancestor of the nation of Israel. He was the second-born son of Isaac and Rebecca and younger twin brother of Esau. Stories about him and his family form the last part of Genesis (25:19–50:13). The descendants of his 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Jacob ★★½ 1994

Jacob (Modine), second son of Isaac (Ackland), tricks his father into giving him the blessing meant for eldest son Esau (Bean). Jacob is forced to run away to his Uncle Laban (Giannini), where he promptly falls in love with his cousin Rachel (Boyle). But Laban tricks Jacob into marrying eldest daughter Leah (Aubrey), before allowing his marriage to Rachel. Finally, Jacob settles on his own land with his wives and children (who will become the tribes of Israel). Diginified retelling of the biblical story; filmed on location in Morocco. 120m/C VHS, DVD . Matthew Modine, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sean Bean, Juliet Aubrey, Giancarlo Giannini, Joss Ackland, Irene Papas, Christoph Waltz; D: Peter Hall; W: Lionel Chetwynd; M: Marco Frisina. CABLE

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