Jacob (Yaakov in Hebrew) is the third and final patriarch of the Jewish people. He was the son of Isaac and Rebecca, husband of Rachel and Leah (and Bilhah and Zilpah), and father of the 12 Tribes of Israel. He is famous for his dream of a ladder ascending to Heaven and for wrestling with an angel. He is also known as Israel (Yisrael in Hebrew), the name by which the entire Jewish people subsequently became known.

Curious to know more? Read these 14 facts about Jacob.

1. His Story Is Told in the Book of Genesis

After recounting the lives of Abraham and Isaac, the Book of Genesis turns to Jacob, whose story spans chapters 25 and 27-35. Jacob’s narrative is colorful and multi-dimensional, portraying a man who encountered tribulations of all kinds but persevered and flourished nonetheless.

Read: Jacob of the Bible

2. He Was the Third Patriarch

The story of the Jewish people begins with the three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs, the patriarchs being Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These towering personages are not just our ancestors; they are the fathers of every Jew (avinu in Hebrew), with a relationship as close as that of a biological parent. The story of Jacob’s life thus holds personal significance and imparts valuable life lessons for every Jew.

Read: The Patriarchs

3. He Was a Twin

After 20 years of childless marriage, Isaac and Rebecca’s prayers were answered and Rebecca conceived. Finding the pregnancy unusually difficult, Rebecca consulted with Shem, the righteous son of Noah.1 Shem relayed G‑d’s message that she was carrying two children in her womb, progenitors of two great nations. These two brothers, Jacob and Esau, would chart drastically different paths in life.2

Read: Twins in the Bible

4. He Was Born Grasping His Twin’s Heel

The first to be born was the Esau, followed moments later by Jacob. Jacob exited his mother’s womb grasping his brother’s heel, symbolizing from the start the ongoing tension between them and between the nations they would father. This event led to him being named Jacob, which means “heel” in Hebrew.3

Read: Jacob and Esau

5. He Bought the Birthright With a Pot of Stew

From birth, the paths of the two brothers diverged; Esau pursued a life of hunting and deceit while Jacob dedicated himself to the study of Torah. One day, Esau returned home from a hunting (and murdering4) trip fatigued and famished, and he demanded that his brother feed him a meal. Jacob offered him a bowl of lentil stew in exchange for Esau’s rights as the firstborn. Uninterested in the spiritual value of the birthright, Esau readily sold it to Jacob.5

Read: Esau Sells His Birthright for a Mess of Pottage

6. He Left Home to Avoid Fraternal Wrath

Years later, the aging Isaac prepared to bestow upon Esau the blessings due to the firstborn. Knowing that it was Jacob who rightfully deserved them, Rebecca instructed her son to pose as his twin and obtain the coveted blessings. Jacob did so, and when Esau discovered what had happened he was furious, intent on killing his brother. Jacob had no choice but to flee until Esau’s wrath subsided.6

Read: Was Jacob Right to “Steal” the Blessings?

7. He Dreamt of a Ladder on the Temple Mount

Jacob set his sights on Haran, the residence of his uncle, Rebecca’s brother Laban. His journey took him past the future site of the Temple Mount, the very place where his father had been bound as a sacrifice. While there, Jacob dreamt of a ladder with angels ascending and descending to and from Heaven. In this dream, G‑d appeared to him and promised to protect him during the difficult years that lay ahead.7

Read: The Symbolism of Jacob’s Ladder

8. He Had Four Wives and (at Least) Thirteen Children

In Haran, Jacob offered to work as Laban’s shepherd for seven years to obtain the hand of Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, in marriage. However, when the seven years had passed, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his older daughter, Leah, instead. He agreed to give Rachel to Jacob as well on condition that he work for another seven years, which Jacob did faithfully, despite his uncle’s deceit.8

Jacob eventually also married Bilhah and Zilpah, Rachel’s and Leah’s maidservants. His four wives bore him 12 sons, fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel, as well as (at least9) one daughter, Dinah.10

Read: The 12 Tribes of Israel

9. He Wrestled With an Angel

Jacob spent 20 years in Haran, deceived by his uncle at every turn but amassing great wealth nonetheless.11 Finally, he departed and made his way home, hoping that his brother’s hatred had diminished. During the journey, Jacob encountered an angel, whom our sages identify as Esau’s ministering angel.12 The angel engaged Jacob in battle, but Jacob emerged victorious—although the struggle left him with a temporary limp.13

Read: Jacob Wrestles the Angel

10. “Israel” Is His Second Name

G‑d gave Jacob a second name—Israel, “ruler of angels” in Hebrew, commemorating his successful victory over Esau’s angel. Jacob was not the only patriarch with a name change; Abraham’s name was likewise modified from Abram to Abraham. However, while the revision of Abraham’s name was absolute, Jacob is referred to by either name.

Read: Jacob’s Double Identity

11. His Beloved Wife Died During Childbirth

Having endured both Laban’s deceit and Esau’s hatred, Jacob arrived safely in the Land of Canaan. During the final leg of the journey, however, tragedy struck: Rachel died giving birth to their youngest son, Benjamin.14

Read: 12 Facts About Benjamin

12. He Was Separated From Relatives for 22 Years–Twice

After his hasty departure following the incident with the blessings, it took 22 years15 before Jacob was able to reunite with his father16 (his mother passed in the interim17). Nine years later, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, was sold by his brothers to Egypt. Jacob was led to believe that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal, and he mourned him for many years.18 The lengthy, fascinating saga of Joseph and his brothers concludes with the emotional reunion between Jacob and Joseph in Egypt, 22 years since they had seen each other last.19

Read: The Story of Joseph

13. He Lived to 147

Jacob spent the final and most peaceful 17 years of his life in Egypt. When he felt his time was near, at the age of 147, he summoned his sons to his bedside and blessed them, instructing that they bury him in the Holy Land. Jacob was subsequently laid to rest in the Cave of Machpelah, alongside his parents Isaac and Rebecca, grandparents Abraham and Sarah, and wife Leah.20

Read: Cave of the Patriarchs

14. He Flourished Despite All Odds

Jacob arrived in the foreign land of Haran alone and penniless, discovering that his very own uncle could not be trusted. Yet, his trust in G‑d gave him the fortitude to persevere, and he flourished despite the hardships. Not only did he achieve financial wealth, but he raised a family who stayed true to his beliefs and values.

The trajectory of Jacob’s life mirrors that of his descendants throughout history. It is our faith and dedication to G‑d that has always given us the courage to survive—and thrive—despite the tribulations of exile, until, like Jacob, we will ultimately return to our homeland with Moshiach.21

Read: Singing Despite the Blues