What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Jacob (Israel)?

Soon after Lehi led his family into the wilderness, he sent his four sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve a sacred record engraved on brass plates (1 Nephi 3:2-3). When they returned with the plates, he found that they contained the five books of Moses, a history of the Jews, and the writings of many prophets. He also discovered his own genealogy: he was a descendant of Jacob and of his son Joseph, who was sold into slavery and who ultimately saved his father and his brothers from starvation (1 Nephi 5:14).

Lehi and his wife Sariah had two more sons as they traveled in the wilderness. They named the first Jacob and the second Joseph (1 Nephi 18:7).

The name Jacob (יַעֲקֹב) means literally a heel-catcher, which is a metaphor for a supplanter, a person who supersedes someone else. Before Jacob was born, he wrestled with his twin brother, Esau, in his mother’s womb. When she asked God what was happening, He explained to her that there were two nations in her womb, “and the elder shall serve the younger.” Esau was born first. After Jacob was born, he grabbed Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:22-26).

Jacob was ambitious. As a young adult, with his mother’s help, he tricked his father into giving him the birthright instead of his older brother (Genesis 27:1-29). Soon after, he met and fell in love with Rachel. He served her father seven years for the privilege of marrying her, “and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29:20).

Years later, as he returned with his family to the land of his father, he was nervous how he would be received by his twin brother. After sending gifts to mollify Esau, he found a place where he could be alone. All night, he wrestled with a messenger from God. As morning broke, the messenger blessed him and said, “Your name isn’t Jacob any more. It’s Israel because you have wrestled with God and with men, and you have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). The word Israel means “one who prevails with God.” The following day, he had a joyful meeting with his brother (Genesis 33:4, 8).

God made promises to Jacob—the same promises He had made to his father, Isaac, and to his grandfather, Abraham. Among other things, He promised that Jacob’s descendants would become a mighty nation (Genesis 35:9-12).

Years later, Captain Moroni quoted a prophecy Jacob had made before his death. Holding up a fragment of the coat of many colors which he had given to his son Joseph many years earlier, Jacob said:

Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God (Alma 46:24-26).

Moroni saw this prophecy as a call to action: his people needed to fight so that they could be the portion of Jacob’s seed that survived, not the portion that would perish.

That same prophecy gave Mormon hope. After describing the widespread destruction which coincided with the death of Jesus Christ, Mormon wrote:

Behold, our father Jacob also testified concerning a remnant of the seed of Joseph. And behold, are not we a remnant of the seed of Joseph? And these things which testify of us, are they not written upon the plates of brass which our father Lehi brought out of Jerusalem? (3 Nephi 10:17).

And when the Savior visited the people shortly after, He referred to Jacob as well:

This people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you (3 Nephi 20:22).

Today, I will remember Jacob, who persevered with God and won His favor. I will remember that Jacob made sacred covenants with God, which continued to bless his descendants centuries later.

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