Prophet Jacob was the son of Prophet Isaac, the grandson of Prophet Abraham, the father of Prophet Joseph and the grandfather of the children of Israel.
Though Christianity and Islam concur on honoring Prophet Jacob, Jacob in the Qur’an in particular and Islam in general is totally different from Jacob in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Let’s have a look at what the Qur’an and the Bible say about Jacob.
Prophet Jacob in Christianity
Jacob’s character in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is quite typical of the Jewish, Israeli personality, which is remarkable for usuriousness, deceit and the feelings of transcendence and superiority.
Therefore, Jacob’s character in the Bible can never be that of a prophet sent by God but rather that of a usurious, deceitful, conceited Jew who begot comparably usurious, deceitful, conceited offspring.
It is ironic that the stated feelings of superiority and transcendence are intended even against God Himself. The word “Israel” itself as another name of Jacob indicates victory over God. In the Old Testament, we read:
Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat him, he struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip. Then he said to Jacob, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied. “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he answered, “Why do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has been spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30)
On the other hand, usuriousness and deceit were shown in the Bible to Jacob’s next of kin, namely his older brother “Esau”. The Bible tells us that Jacob bargained with his older brother “Esau” over the latter’s birthright in return for food.
In the Old Testament, we read: He said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, because I’m exhausted.” That is why he was also named Edom. Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright…” (Genesis 25:30-31)
Moreover, the Bible tells us that Jacob obtained his brother’s deserved blessing by deception. In the Bible, we read: Jacob replied to his father, “I am Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may bless me.”… But he replied, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” So he said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me twice now. He took my birthright, and look, now he has taken my blessing.” Then he asked, “Haven’t you saved a blessing for me?” But Isaac answered Esau, “Look, I have made him a master over you, have given him all of his relatives as his servants, and have sustained him with grain and new wine. What then can I do for you, my son?” (Genesis 27:19-37)
Despite the deceit and feeling of superiority attributed to Jacob’s character in the Bible, we notice that the Bible tries to improve his image by plagiarizing situations from the biographies of Abraham and Isaac, so that Jacob’s character will seem more acceptable.
For example, the Bible tells us that just as God changed Abraham’s name from “Abram” to “Abraham” (Genesis 5:17), He also changed Jacob’s name from “Jacob” to “Israel”.
We read: God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; you will no longer be named Jacob, but your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. (Genesis 35:9-10)
The Bible also tells us that just as the beloved wives of Abraham and Isaac, Sarah and Rebekah, were barren (Genesis 11:30), (Genesis 25:21-23), Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, was barren also. We read:
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she envied her sister. “Give me sons, or I will die!” she said to Jacob. Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in God’s place, who has withheld offspring from you?” Then she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah. Go sleep with her, and she’ll bear children for me so that through her I too can build a family…” (Genesis 30:1-3)
Prophet Jacob in Islam
Islam honors and praises Prophet Jacob as one of the greatest prophets but without discrimination. In the Qur’an, we read:
Say, [O believers], “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” (Al-Baqarah 2:136)
For example, Prophet Jacob is described as a prophet with a reputation of high honor. In the Qur’an, we read:
So when he had left them and those they worshipped other than Allah, We gave him Isaac and Jacob, and each [of them] We made a prophet. And We gave them of Our mercy, and we made for them a reputation of high honor. (Maryam 19:49-50)
He is also described as a righteous leader. In the Qur’an, we read:
And We gave him Isaac and Jacob in addition, and all [of them] We made righteous. And We made them leaders guiding by Our command. And We inspired to them the doing of good deeds, establishment of prayer, and giving of zakah; and they were worshippers of Us. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:72-73)
The Qur’an tells us that God blessed Jacob and made him a prophet from among the righteous. We read:
And We gave him good tidings of Isaac, a prophet from among the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. But among their descendants is the doer of good and the clearly unjust to himself. (As-Saffat 37:112-113)
The Qur’an also tells us that Prophet Abraham, as well as his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob are among the chosen and outstanding servants in the sight of God. We read:
And remember Our servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – those of strength and [religious] vision. Indeed, We chose them for an exclusive quality: remembrance of the home [of the Hereafter]. And indeed they are, to Us, among the chosen and outstanding. (Saad 38:45-46)
- The Glorious Qur’an
- The Holy Bible