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Jacob sets the pillow of stone upright and names it Beth-El; early 20th century Sunday School Bible card

Jacob, whose name was later changed to “Israel,” lived c. 2005 - c.1885 BCE and, according to the the Book of Genesis 49:29-33 in the Bible, lived to the age of 147 years. He was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and the son of Isaac and Rebecca. His wives were Leah and Rachel, and his concubines were Bilhah and Zilpah. With these four women he was the father of twelve sons -- Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin -- and one daughter, Dinah. Each of these sons became the head of a family group, and these groups eventually gave rise to the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob is considered to be the most perfect and most “angelic” of the Patriarchs of Judaism. In the the Zohar (The Book of Radiance), a book in the Jewish Grimoire Tradition, Jacob is described as resembling Adam, the first man, taking on his most beautiful physical features, and it is even considered that Jacob was possibly a reincarnation of Adam's soul.

Jacob was the younger fraternal twin of Isaac and Rebecca's first born child, Esau. Esau made a rash deal with Jacob for his birthright in exchange for some stew. However, In order to claim his birthright from his father, Jacob had to deceive Isaac when he was old and blind. Thus he intercepted Esau’s blessing and birthright, fulfilling a prior prophecy that the older would serve the younger. Eventually, the estranged twins reunited. Additionally, according to the Zohar (The Book of Radiance), when Jacob took his brother’s birthright, he also took the garments of Adam, which had been in Esau’s possession. These garments were said to have been made from skin (some texts in the Jewish Grimoire Tradition state that this was the skin of the serpent that lead Adam and Eve astray, while other hold that it was the skin of the sea-monster Leviathan. In any case, it was said that when worn they exuded the scent of the Garden of Eden and allowed the wearer to hunt and capture animals at will.

During his life, Jacob experienced two major spiritual events. The first occurred when he was travelling away from home. As darkness fell, he lay down to sleep with his head on a pillow of stone, and had a prophetic oneiromantic dream, in which he saw a ladder extending from the Earth to Heaven. According to canonical Jewish tradition, he ascended to the top of the ladder, was able to glimpse the celestial temple, and received apocalyptic revelations. In commemoration of this vision, he set the stone pillow erect as a pillar, and named it Beth-El, which means "The House of God." At another time, Jacob wrestled with a man who was really an angel in disguise. He received a hip injury that caused him to limp for the rest of his life, but he won the wrestling match, and as a result he demanded that the holy being bestow a blessing on him. In response, the angel gave him the name Israel, which means "One Who Wrestles With God." In Christian iconography Jacob is usually depicted asleep at the foot of the ladder or staircase of angels, wrestling with the angel, or setting upright the stone pillar of Beth-El.


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