Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

Jacob

Judah’s Speech to Joseph: The Subtext

After Joseph’s goblet is found in Benjamin’s sack, Judah makes a passionate speech to save Benjamin, in which he claims that if Benjamin leaves his father, “he will die.” Who will die? Why does the Torah phrase this so ambiguously?

Avram Friedman

,

,

Jacob’s Struggle at Jabbok: The Limits of Strategy

Jacob makes a series of strategic preparations in anticipation of meeting his estranged brother Esau. Instead of the expected confrontation, we get a totally unexpected, unanticipated, and unprepared for wrestling between Jacob and a mysterious stranger at the ford of Jabbok. By juxtaposing these two accounts, the narrative invites us to think about both the human impulse to control and its limitations.

Prof.

Meira Z. Kensky

,

,

Did Jacob and Esau Reconcile?

Upon meeting again after twenty years, Esau approaches his brother with a buoyant spirit and a warm embrace. Jacob, however, is formal and submissive. Why doesn’t he reciprocate Esau’s overtures?

Prof.

George Savran

,

,

Where Do Isaac and Rebecca Live When Jacob Leaves Home?

Isaac and Rebecca live in Beersheba (Gen 26:23), Beer-lahai-roi (Gen 25:11) and Kiryat-arba (Gen 35:27). When Jacob sets off to Laban’s house, where is he leaving from?

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

,

,

If Jacob Is Returning to Canaan, Why Send Messengers to Esau in Seir?

Traditional commentators have grappled with why Jacob risks Esau’s wrath by sending him a message that he is on his way. Understanding the history of the text shows that in an older version of this story, Jacob had no choice: he was heading to his parents’ home in the Seir region.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

,

,

Hosea’s Characterization of Jacob

As part of a complaint by God against Israel and Judah, Hosea 12 mentions several stories about Jacob, intended to serve as a model for behavior. But is Jacob a good or bad role model?

Noam Cohen

,

,

Rachel Weeps in Ramah: Of All the Patriarchs, God Listens Only to Her

Rachel weeps over her exiled descendants and God hears her plea (Jer 31:14–16). Expanding on this passage, the rabbis in Midrash Eichah Rabbah envision Jeremiah awakening the patriarchs and Moses to plead with God to have mercy on Israel. Upon their failure to move God, the matriarch Rachel intervenes successfully.

Prof.

Hagith Sivan

,

,

Moses and the Fugitive Hero Pattern

The story of Moses follows a pattern that is typical of ancient Near Eastern fugitive hero narratives. However, when Moses goes to Mount Horeb, the plot deviates from the usual “divine encounter” feature. What does this tell us about the composition of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush?

Prof.

Edward L. Greenstein

,

,

Jacob’s Journey to Mahanaim and Penuel in J and E

The merging of two different accounts of Jacob’s return home is reflected in the double etymologies for Mahanaim and Penuel. Why do both sources have Jacob pass through these two cities one after the other? The answer lies in geography.

Dr.

David Ben-Gad HaCohen

,

,

Israel’s History as a Family Narrative

Behind the story of Jacob’s struggle with his older twin Esau, stands a political allegory, reflecting how Israel (=Jacob) first dominated Edom (=Esau) in the 10th-9th centuries and then lost control over it in the late 8th century.

Prof.

Marvin A. Sweeney

,

,

Jacob’s Multiple Death Scenes

Bringing Parashat Vayechi to Life

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

,

,

God Goes Down to Egypt with Jacob: A Story for the Exiles

God tells Jacob, “I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back” (Gen 46:4), a reassurance intended to speak to readers in the exilic period.

Prof.

Yairah Amit

,

,

“Esau Hates Jacob” - But Is Antisemitism a Halakha?

Esau's plan to kill Jacob and his “dotted” kiss upon their reunion has been cited by rabbinic authorities, such as Rav Moshe Feinstein, as evidence that antisemitism is inherent. This idea is not found in the Torah or the Talmud.

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

,

,

Jacob’s Deal with God

The vow Jacob makes to God is ambiguous. Where does the condition of the vow end and his action begin?

Rabbi

Zvi Grumet

,

,

Did Jacob Meet YHWH by the Stairway to Heaven in Beth-El?

On his way to Haran, Jacob stops at a place, later named Beth-El, and sees in a dream angels going up and down a staircase to the gateway of heaven. In the story, Jacob also notices YHWH standing beside him and YHWH speaks to him. Examined closely, this short story is beset with literary difficulties that suggest it is composed of two independent narratives.

Prof.

Baruch J. Schwartz

,

,

The Rape of Dinah, Added as a Motive for the Sack of Shechem

Originally the sons of Jacob saw the interest Shechem took in marrying their sister as an opportunity to plunder Shechem. A later editor, uncomfortable with this story, blamed the carnage on Simeon and Levi, and added the rape of Dinah as a motivation for their actions.

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

,

,

Primeval Coats

Clothing, beginning with Joseph’s coat, functions both as a marker of distinction and as the source of undoing in the Joseph story. Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer adds layers of history to this coat: it is the original garments made from the sloughed skin of the serpent that God gave to Adam and Eve, which was then worn by Nimrod, Esau, and Jacob. Midrash Tanchuma claims it to be the (future) High Priest’s tunic.

Prof.

Rachel Adelman

,

,

Why Is Esau’s Kiss Dotted?

Esau’s kiss to Jacob is written with scribal dots over the word וַׄיִּׄשָּׁׄקֵ֑ׄהׄוּׄ, “and he kissed him.” Traditional commentators suggest this hints to Esau’s feelings or state of mind. Critical scholarship, however, points to something much more prosaic, a question of syntax.

Prof.

Albert I. Baumgarten

,

,

The Conclusion of Parashat Miketz: Jacob’s Suspicion and the Brothers’ Choice

Why the rabbis ended Parashat Mikketz with a cliffhanger (in both the Babylonian and the Eretz-Yisraeli traditions), and what the Ancient Near Eastern legal context of “evidence law” can clarify for us about the background of the story.

Dr.

Miryam Brand

,

,

“All of Jacob’s Descendants Numbered Seventy-Five” – The Opening of Exodus in the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Book of Exodus begins with an accounting of the members of Jacob's family who went with him to Egypt. Our Torah, the Masoretic Text, lists 70 people. Dead Sea Scroll manuscript 4QExb, however, records 75 people. How do we account for this and other differences between the texts?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

,

,

The Source of Jacob’s Two Blessings

Project TABS Editors

,

,

The Two Versions of Jacob

Reactive vs. Goal-oriented

Prof. Rabbi

David Frankel

,

,

Jacob the Conqueror of Shechem

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

,

,

Anxiety over Twins: Anthropological Insights into the Story of Jacob and Esau

Dr.

Kristine Henriksen Garroway

,

,

A Parasha Pregnant with the Past, Present and Future of Israel’s Protagonists

Three distinct themes in Parashat Vayetzei are intertwined: Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel, the birth of Jacob’s sons, and Jacob’s departure from Haran. 

Prof.

Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

,

,

No items found.