Jacob (jāˈkəb) [key], in the Bible, ancestor of the Hebrews, the younger of Isaac and Rebecca's twin sons; the older was Esau. In exchange for a bowl of lentil soup, Jacob obtained Esau's birthright and, with his mother's help, received the blessing that the dying Isaac had intended for his older son. Esau became so enraged that Jacob fled to his uncle, Laban, in Paddan-aram. On his way, at Bethel, he had a vision of angels ascending and descending the ladder to heaven. After 20 years serving Laban, Jacob started back to his native land with his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and his many sons—the eponymous ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. On the banks of the Jabbok, Jacob wrestled with an angel, received the name of Israel, and reconciled with Esau the next day. Later, Jacob migrated to Egypt, where he was reunited with his son Joseph. Jacob died there, but his sons buried him in the family plot at Machpelah. Modern biblical scholars question the historicity of Jacob. In the New Testament the name James is equivalent to the Hebrew Jacob.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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