Jacob, Heir to the Promises of God

Discovery for Students

Jacob, Heir to the Promises of God


Genesis 27:1 through 36:43

“And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)


Jacob was the younger of the twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah, and the third patriarch of the Hebrews with whom God made a covenant. Before Jacob was born, God ordained that His plan for His chosen people would be through Jacob, rather than through Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, even though Esau was the elder. Jacob and his brother, Esau, were at odds with each other even before they were born, struggling within Rebekah’s womb.

As Jacob grew to manhood, he must have learned much about God and His promises from his parents and his grandfather, Abraham, who died when Jacob was about fifteen. He no doubt also knew that the hereditary responsibilities, privileges, and blessings would customarily flow through Esau, the elder. Through devious means, he tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the eldest son’s blessing, but as a result, he had to flee his homeland and go to dwell with his mother’s kinsmen in Haran. In time, Jacob married, and fathered twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. They are the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, and the ones for whom the tribes are named. Joseph is the father of two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim.

As we trace the key events in Jacob’s life, we also follow his spiritual pilgrimage as God prepared him to be Israel, ancestor of His chosen people and heir of the promises made to his father and grandfather. Many times Jacob seemed an unlikely candidate for the role of a patriarch of Israel, but God repeatedly appeared to him, affirming His covenant and reminding Jacob of his place in God’s plan.

Sin and its effects, God’s sovereignty, conviction, God’s grace, redemption of man, and God’s keeping power are some of the many themes present in the account of Jacob.


  1. The text of our previous lesson contains the account of how Jacob took advantage of Esau’s hunger and seeming disregard for his hereditary privileges, and obtained Esau’s birthright in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew. (See Genesis 25:27-34.) In the first chapter of today’s text, we read how Jacob deceived Isaac into giving him the blessing that Isaac expected to give to Esau. Why was the trickery and conniving of Jacob and Rebekah unnecessary in both of these circumstances?
  2. What was Esau’s response to Jacob’s deceitful action in securing Isaac’s blessing, and how did God use this in Jacob’s life? Genesis 27:41-45
  3. God spoke to Jacob in a dream as he fled from Esau. What did God show Jacob, and how did Jacob respond when he awoke? Genesis 28:12-22
  4. After Jacob spent a month with his uncle Laban’s family, Laban inquired what wages Jacob desired for his services. According to Genesis 29:15-19 the two men agreed that after seven years of service, Rachel would become Jacob’s wife. How did Laban deceive Jacob in this matter? Genesis 29:23
  5. Over the twenty years that Jacob worked for Laban, the relationship between the two men was strained and, at times, adversarial. Chapters 30 and 31 relate details of some of their disputes, which are summed up in Jacob’s complaint, “I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou has changed my wages ten times” (Genesis 31:41). In spite of the unfair manner in which Jacob was treated, God prospered him. When God told Jacob it was time for him to return to the land of his fathers, Jacob told Leah and Rachel of his decision. What verses reveal that he knew that God had been with him? Genesis 31:1-13
  6. As Jacob prepared to meet Esau, he was afraid of what might transpire, and was not reassured when he heard that Esau was coming with four hundred men. Referring to Genesis 32, list the steps Jacob took before meeting his brother Esau.
  7. The name Jacob meant “supplanter.” The name Israel meant “one who struggles with God and prevails.” What change of character was represented by the change of names for Jacob? (Genesis 32:28)
  8. Genesis 33:1-17 recounts the reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. What was Jacob’s first action when he approached his brother? How many times in that passage did Jacob refer to himself as Esau’s “servant” and Esau as his “lord”? What do these details indicate?
  9. In Genesis 35:1, God instructed Jacob to return to Bethel, the site where He had made the initial covenant revelation to Jacob, and build an altar there. After receiving that instruction, what did Jacob command his family to do? What was the significance of his command? Genesis 35:2


No matter what we perceive to be happening, God is sovereign and well able to bring about His plan. Let us learn a lesson from the life of Jacob, and allow God to work out the details of our lives in accordance with His divine will. As we submit to Him, we can be assured of His favor.