the younger twin son of Isaac and Rebecca. His life is presented as a struggle with both human beings and God (Gn. 32.28), beginning from the womb with Esau from whom he took the birthright and blessing. As a result, he was forced to flee to his uncle Laban. On the way he had a dream at Bethel and saw a ladder joining earth to heaven (Gn. 28.12, 17–19). After struggling under Laban's employment he left with two wives, becoming the father of one daughter and of twelve sons from whom descended the tribes of Israel. In his final testament (Gn. 49), Jacob blesses his sons and alludes to the future of the tribes.

The most significant Judean Desert writings that mention Jacob are fragments related to Second Temple works such as Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which retell and expand biblical stories. [See Jubilees, Book of; Twelve Patriarchs, Testaments of the.] In Jubilees, Jacob is a central figure, much more frequently praised and blessed than in the Hebrew scriptures. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which follow the pattern of Jacob's final testament (Gn. 41–50), his sons recount an episode in their life to illustrate a vice or virtue that becomes the subject of exhortation to their sons. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jacob prays for his sons (Testament of Reuben 1.7; Testament of Judah 19.2), and in Jubilees he exhorts against evil (Jub. 39.6). In both Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jacob's struggles culminate in victory over the Amorites and his killing of Esau (Jub. 34, 38; Testament of Judah 3, 9, cf. Gn. 48.22).

The Judean Desert texts contain a number of references to Jacob. Many are references to the sons of Jacob (e.g., 4Q372 1.13), or the nation as a whole is called Jacob (e.g., 4Q175 1.12, 17). At least eight passages relate to Jacob's life. There are a number of Aramaic fragments dating from about 100 bce of a work that has been called the Apocryphon of Jacob (4Q537). This work may be a reworking from the third person to the first person of Jubilees 32.21 (Jacob's return to Bethel where he confers the priesthood on Levi, cf. Gn. 35.7). The first fragment mentions a dream in which an angel brings Jacob tablets on which were written what would happen to him during his life and perhaps (the text is broken) forbids the building of a temple at Bethel. The second fragment gives instructions concerning the temple, the priesthood, and sacrifices (lacking in Jubilees). The Temple Scroll (11Q19 xxix.10) also associates the temple with God's covenant with Jacob at Bethel, as does the Apocryphon of Joseph (4Q372 3.9). Two Hebrew fragments of Jubilees at Qumran contain the section that mentions Jacob's first journey to Bethel (1Q17, cf. Jub. 27.19–21) and Rebecca's request to Isaac to make Esau swear not to harm Jacob (1Q18, cf. 35.8–10). Jubileesf (4Q221) fragment 4 preserves parts of the story about Reuben's sin with his father's concubine (Jub. 33.12–15); fragments 5 and 6 have parts of the narrative about his war with Esau (37.11–15; 38.6–8), and Jubileesg (4Q222) fragment 1 contains Jacob's discussion with Rebecca about a wife for him (25.9–12; cf. 27.6–7). In Jubileesh (4Q223–224) several sections from the Jacob stories are extant 32.18–21; 34.4–5, 35.7–12, 12–22; 36.7–10, 10–23; 37.13, 17–38. Reworked Pentateucha (4Q158 7–9) expands Genesis 32.29 by giving the content of God's blessing at Penuel—that Jacob would be fertile, blessed with knowledge and intelligence, and freed from all violence. Commentary on Genesis A (4Q252 iv.5–7) contains a pesher (“commentary”) on Jacob's blessing of Reuben in Genesis 49.3–4. The commentary mentions that Jacob reproved Reuben because he lay with Bilhah and comments on his status as the firstborn. Column v follows with a pesher of Jacob's blessing of Judah in Genesis 49.10. [See Judah.]

The New Testament refers to Jacob in connection with the other patriarchs or with his sons, for example, in the genealogies (Mt. 1.2; Lk. 3.34) or with blessing Joseph's sons (Hb. 11.21). Jacob is an example of God's selection (Rom. 9.13), and Christ as the Son of Man is seen as the focus of his dream at Bethel (Jn. 1.51). Rabbinic writings elevate Jacob as the greatest of the patriarchs (Gn. Rab. 76.1). They justify his gaining the birthright and blessing, and desiring Rachel; they disapprove of his marriage to two sisters (B.T., Pes. 119b), his treatment of Leah (Ag. Ber. 48(49).2), favoritism toward Joseph (B.T., Shab. 10b; B.T., Meg. 16b; Gn. Rab. 84.8), and prolonged absence from home (B.T., Meg. 16b ff.).


  • Milik, Józef T. “Écrits préesséniens de Qumrân: d'Hénoch à Amram.” In Qumrân: Sa piété, sa théologie et son milieu, edited by M. Delcor, pp. 91–106. Paris, 1978.
    Contains a transliteration, notes, and comments on the Apocryphon of Jacob
  • Peuch, Émile. “Fragments d'un apocryphe de Lévi.” In The Madrid Qumran Congress, vol. 2, edited by Julio Trebolle Barrera and Luis Vegas Montaner, pp. 449–501. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, 11. Leiden, 1992.
    Contains the text, transliteration, notes, and comments on the Apocryphon of Jacob

Roger Good