Jacob in the Bible: Character Profile, Story, and Lessons

by Crystal McDowell · Print Print · Email Email

What was there to like about Jacob? He was an opportunist, co-conspirator, shifty, untrustworthy, negligent, and a father who picked favorites. Yet God said, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13). God blessed him with many children, a productive lifestyle, and a long life. Jacob’s story reminds believers that God is in the business of transforming our struggles for His purposes and our good.

Jacob’s Story

Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, was promised by God to have many descendants just as the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea. Abraham had one son, Isaac, who had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Although Esau was the firstborn, he was man of natural passions without regard for spiritual things. United in their deception, Rebekah (Jacob’s mother) and Jacob tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. As a result Jacob was forced to run away to his Uncle Laban’s home. In route the Lord visited Jacob to reassure of the promise He made to Abraham.

Jacob fell immediately in love with Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel, and worked seven years to marry her. Unfortunately Laban deceived him into marrying her sister, Leah, and Jacob had to work seven more years to marry his first love. Between Jacob’s two wives and their maidservants, he had twelve sons and one daughter. Eventually Jacob would run away from Laban with his family and possessions to return to his homeland. Jacob had the exceptional experience of having his name changed to Israel as he wrestled with God and man to overcome.

Jacob’s overt favoritism towards his son, Joseph, caused a great rift of hatred in his other sons. They sold Joseph to traveling merchants and brought back his bloody coat so Jacob believed he was dead. His family suffered through Rachel’s death in childbirth, Reuben’s treachery of sleeping with his concubine, Simeon and Levi’s bloodthirsty murders of a whole city in retribution for their sister’s rape, and a severe famine. As an elderly man, Jacob was eventually reunited with Joseph and he worshipped God.

How do we wrestle like Jacob?

Wrestling with our Past

Just like Jacob we have a past with regret, shame, and failure. Unfortunately we can’t go back and change it. We must go forward in the hope that the Lord will turn our failures for good. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14 “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. We have hope in Christ that our sins are completely forgiven even though we may have to deal with the consequences

Question to Ponder: Does your past keep you from moving forward with God’s plan for your life?

Answer: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Wrestling with our Relationships

How do we wrestle like Jacob?

How do we wrestle like Jacob?

Relationships are difficult to maintain in the best of circumstances. Sometimes family and friends break up over the smallest of events and we are left to pick up the pieces of brokenness. In Romans 12:18 we learn that “if it possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. We can’t control the actions, thoughts, or decisions of other people, but we can control our response to them with the love and care of Christ Jesus.

Question to Ponder: Are you struggling with rejection from family or friends?

Answer: “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Wrestling with God

Every believer will have struggling moments with God. We are finite creatures and He is an infinite, all-knowing God and Father of heaven. While the Lord orchestrates the joy and sorrow of our lives, we must continually trust Him through the difficult days. We struggle with our faith in God and we need to know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). Our struggle with God is necessary for us to prove our confidence in Him.

Question to ponder: Do you struggle with God because of life’s circumstances?

Answer: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Jacob’s Lessons

Jacob struggled from his birth until his death more so than Abraham and Isaac. Yet he was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s struggles are our struggles. As believers we don’t always understand the meaning of our struggles, but we hold fast to the conviction that God is in control and He uses our pain to grow us up in the faith. Start today with releasing all your struggles to the Lord and He will bring you peace in the midst of adversity.

Take a look at this article, also about Jacob:

Jacob and Rachel: A Bible Love Story

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Schneider June 6, 2013 at 7:08 am

Terrific article with Scripture, Crystal!
Love the sentence, “….but we hold fast to the conviction that God is in control, and He uses our pain to grow us up in the faith.”
How’s your wonderful family doing these Spring days, Crystal?
Oodles of God’s blessings upon you and your family!
Love, your sister in Christ, Jesus….Patty


Crystal McDowell June 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for your words, Pat. We are fine as our lives aren’t so crazy as it was a month ago. God bless! Crystal


Aimee June 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm

My friends all left me, without a reason. I asked them whether I did wrong to them, thought that I would apologize if I did wrong to them, they confirmed saying nothing wrong. Then why on earth their attitude changed towards me — they ignored me? This article helps me. Thanks…


Crystal McDowell June 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Dear Aimee,

Thanks so much for commenting. I know how you feel about the loss of friendships. If you want to check out my blog: crystalmcdowellspeaks.blogspot.com. My very first entry “Repairing the Breach” touches on this very issue. I’m also working on an article about friendships and women. But there are also 2 very good books that I’ve read “Friendships for Grown-Ups” by Lisa Whelchel and “The Friendships of Women” by Dee Brestin. God has given me a lot of peace when my heart is broken from the loss of a good friend. I pray that He give you much comfort even in those hurting days. God bless! Crystal


Aimee June 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Could it be that the loneliness in our lives or the conflicts in our relationships are the result of an underlying spirit of discontentment? or other reasons? Ref (At Jacob’s request, they buried him next to Leah in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron beside Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah (Gen. 49:29-31; 50:13). Rachel lies alone.) How do we know the reasons?Do I need to know the reasons or just live it without questioning?


Crystal McDowell June 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Dear Aimee,
I don’t know if I can really say that discontentment is a result of loneliness. I know that we can be alone and not lonely because Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us. Your question reminds me of how often Jesus went to “lonely places” to pray. I believe there is a time for fellowship and there is a time to be alone. Our Father in heaven knows our hearts and meets our desires according to His will. I would advise you to use this precious season of testing to spend more time in prayer and Bible study with your Father. He really does love you and wants the best for you during this time of adversity. God bless.


Aimee June 10, 2013 at 3:47 am

Thank you Crystal. Cheers.


Patricia Schneider June 10, 2013 at 10:47 am

Crystal, your replies to Aimee are right on the spot! (Glad my “reply to Aimee” was dismissed now. I’m definitely not “qualified” to give the superb advice you gave her! Had overlooked you asking Aimee to check your blog. So sorry, Crystal. Thankful WCWTK “moderates” replies. It would have been a “foot in my mouth,” for sure! LOL!)
Oodles of God’s blessings for you, Crystal, and your family!
Your sister in Christ, Jesus….Patty


Crystal McDowell June 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

God bless you Patty for your continued encouragement. I appreciate your understanding for the post. The Lord holds you in His hand.
Love in Christ,


TukaiNaca June 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm

What a great lesson and it reveals my ‘own’ struggle and the good news I learn in this lesson from Jacob is that we cannot change ourselves and only God can! In the midst of our struggle, life’s wilderness God knows better as he searches the heart and mind,wow in God’s way He is the author and finisher of our faith.


Crystal McDowell June 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Amen! Thanks for your comment.

God bless,


Patricia Schneider June 16, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Gracious, do I have a dumb habit of “over-looking” things, Crystal! Your blog, for instance?
Just read over your page for April 5-June 15, 2013. WOW!!! Incredibly insightful, Crystal! Our Heavenly Father has truly blessed you w/writing skills. And the suggestions to read others’ writings and books I truly appreciated.
Give you hubby a Happy Father’s Day greeting & a hug for me! OK?
Oodles of God’s blessings for you, Crystal, and your family!
Love, in Christ, Jesus….Patty


Crystal McDowell June 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Thanks Pat! You’re a great encourager.


Dana June 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

This comment is not in regards to this post, but to the advertisements on the side bar. I am disturbed to find an animation of a naked woman. This is contrary to the purity that this site promotes. I ask that the managers of this website would remove this advertisement immediately, and rethink their standard for what they want promoted on this site.


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