The Beginning of the Israelites

While Jacob was working another seven years for his wife Rachel, twelve children were born to him. First his wife Leah gave birth to four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah. When Rachel saw that her sister was having children, but she was not, she gave her slave-girl Bilhah to Jacob as a wife to have children for her. So Bilhah gave birth to two sons: Dan and Naphtali. Then Leah gave her slave-girl Zilpah to Jacob as a wife to have more children for him. So Zilpah gave birth to two sons: Gad and Asher. Then Leah gave birth to two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and one daughter, Dinah. Finally Jacob's wife Rachel gave birth to a son, Joseph.

After Joseph was born, Jacob asked his father-in-law Laban to let him return to his homeland. But Laban answered, "I have learned that the Lord has blessed me because of you. Name your wages, and I will pay them." Jacob said, "I don't want any money. Instead let me have every speckled and spotted sheep and goat and every black lamb. That way you can always tell if I have been honest." So Laban agreed, but that day he sent his sons to take the animals that were suppose to be Jacob's away from the flocks and keep them separate.

But the strong sheep and goats started giving birth to speckled and spotted animals. So Laban said, "Only the speckled goats will be your wages. Then all the goats had speckled young. So he said, "Only the striped goats will be your wages." Then all the goats had striped young. After six years Jacob had most of Laban's flocks and Laban's sons did not like it. So God appeared to Jacob in a dream and told him to return to his homeland.

While Laban was away shearing sheep, Jacob took his family and animals and started for the land of Canaan. Three days later Laban heard about it, and taking some men, began to chase Jacob. It took seven days for him to catch up with him, but the night before he caught up, God appeared to Laban in a dream. He told Lavan not to say anything bad to Jacob. So Laban asked Jacob, "Why did you leave without telling me?" Jacob answered, "I was afraid, because I thought that you might take your daughters away from me. I worked for you twenty years-fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks. Even then, you changed my wages ten times. If God had not been with me, you would have sent me away empty-handed." Then Laban and Jacob set up a pile of rocks and made an agreement never to cross that pile of rocks in order to hurt one another. So Laban kissed his grandchildren and daughters and returned home.

Jacob went on toward Canaan and sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau. The messengers came back and said, "Your brother Esau is coming to meet you. He has four hundred men with him." Then Jacob was afraid and prayed to God, "Save me from my brother Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack us and destroy us all." He divided his flocks into two groups and chose a present from them to send to his brother: 220 goats, 220 sheep, 60 camels, 50 cattle, and 30 donkeys. Then he had his wives and children cross to the other side of the Jabbok River.

That night a man came and wrestled with Jacob until just before dawn. The man said, "Let me go; the sun is coming up." Jacob replied, "I won't, unless you bless me." "What is your name?" the man asked. "Jacob," he said. Then the man said, "You will no longer be called Jacob. You have fought with God and men and won; so your name will be Israel," The name Israel means "he fights with God." Then Jacob said, "What is your name?" The man said, "Why do you want to know my name?" So He blessed Jacob and left. Then Jacob realized that this had been God who had taken the form of a man. So he said, "I have seen God and am still alive!"

That day Esau came. Jacob bowed down before him, but Esau ran up, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then both cried, Jacob showed Esau his wives and children and then Esau asked Jacob about the present. Esau said, "Keep it, brother; I have enough." Jacob answered, "No, please take it." So Esau took the present and returned to the country of Edom, where he was now living.

But Jacob went on to Canaan. He lived for a while near the city of Shechem and then moved to Bethel. From there he moved to Mamre, where his father Isaac lived. But on the road near Bethlehem, his wife Rachel gave birth to his twelfth son, Benjamin. She died following the birth and was buried there. And from Jacob's twelve sons came the twelve tribes of the Israelite people, or the children of Israel, as they were called

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