Jacob was one of the famous Patriarchs of the Old Testament—those men God used to found and develop one particular family, which would become a holy nation, and ultimately deliver to the whole world the promised Savior. His story begins in the far-distant past, perhaps up to 4,000 years ago.
Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, the genealogical and spiritual father of the Jewish faith, and the son of Isaac—that child promised to Abraham in his old age. He was the younger twin brother of Esau. They were different in every respect, and their sibling rivalry was unparalleled. The fault lines that would divide this family soon appeared as dad Isaac preferred Esau, and mom Rebekah lavished her attention on Jacob. This situation became particularly toxic when the young men approached adulthood.
Two crucial incidents brought this family to the breaking point. First: When Esau returned from a long hunting trip, Jacob, a calculating schemer, had prepared a sumptuous meal to tantalize his brother and trick him into signing away his birthright as the firstborn son. Then: While Esau was out on another hunting trip, Jacob and his mother devise a clever plan to fool the blind and ailing Isaac. And it worked. Jacob received the coveted paternal blessing meant for Esau. By extension, the promise God gave to Abraham, which he passed on to Isaac, is now granted to Jacob. He will now be the Patriarch, the father of a great nation, protected and blessed by God; through him, the blessings will spread to the earth God intends to redeem.
Esau is now burning with resentment toward his twin brother and plans revenge. But Rebekah thinks of one way to save her preferred son’s life—to hastily send him to her brother’s home hundreds of miles away. So, although Jacob is the legal heir to his father’s wealth, he leaves with almost nothing on a long journey to escape his brother’s wrath.