Genesis 24 – 36
It is time for Abraham’s son, Isaac, to marry. Abraham wants Isaac to marry a woman from a good family, so he sends a servant to the land where he was born to find Isaac a wife.
The servant brings back Rebekah to marry Isaac, and they have twin sons: Esau and Jacob. Isaac loved Esau more, and Rebekah loved Jacob more.
Esau was the older brother (born a few minutes before Jacob) and entitled to the birthright and blessing.
When it came time for Isaac to give Esau his blessing, Rebekah and Jacob tricked Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob. Esau was angry and threatened to kill his brother, so Jacob fled to live with his Uncle Laban.
It is in this new land that Jacob meets Laban’s daughters, and he falls in love with Rachel. In those days the man paid the family a dowry (money or something of value) to marry. After seven years of work to pay the dowry, Jacob was ready to marry Rachel.
Have you ever heard the expression what goes around comes around? Well, that happened to Jacob. Jacob tricked his father and Esau; now Laban tricked him. Instead of marrying Rachel on the wedding day, Laban switched the bride and Jacob married Leah, Rachel’s older sister. A week later, Rachel and Jacob also married; however, Laban required another dowry payment. Jacob promised to work for free for another seven years!
Rachel was jealous of Leah because she had sons, and Rachel was childless. In Biblical times women who couldn’t have children sometimes gave their servants to their husbands to marry. The servants’ children belonged to their mistress.
So Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob. Not to be outdone Leah gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob. Both servants had sons. Eventually, Rachel had a son of her own.
So at this point, Jacob has eleven sons:
Leah was the mother of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and one daughter Dinah
Zilpah (Leah’s servant) was the mother of Gad and Asher.
Bilhah (Rachel’s servant) was the mother of Dan and Naphtali.
Rachel’s son was Joseph.
Tired of living with Laban and all his schemes, Jacob decides to return home, hoping Esau was no longer angry. So he and all his wives and children along with the servants and his livestock travel back to Canaan. Esau finds out that a caravan is approaching and that it is his brother, Jacob. Esau greets Jacob, and the brothers reconcile.
During the years Jacob was away from home, God worked in Jacob’s heart, and he became a better person. At some point, during the trip home God met with Jacob, and blessed him. This encounter changed Jacob’s life, and God changed his name too: from Jacob, which means deceiver, to Israel.
Jacob and his family arrive to his homeland, and Rachel was expecting her second child. Jacob stayed in the region, but sometimes moved from one area to another. Jacob’s family was on their way to Ephrath (Bethlehem) when Rachel died giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth and final son, Benjamin. Descendants of these twelve sons are God’s chosen people, the Jewish race.
Jacob is Abraham’s grandson, so this fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation.