Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, is one of the patriarchs in the Bible. Jacob's story is found in Genesis chapters 25 through 50. When teaching children the story of Jacob, whether at home or in Sunday school, it's helpful to incorporate a variety of activities. Not only will the activities capture the interest of children, but it will also reinforce the lessons.
Jacob and Esau
Jacob had a twin brother named Esau. Esau was the older of the two, and the one who would receive his father's inheritance, as was the family custom. Jacob was a good cook -- and one day when Esau was particularly hungry, he told Jacob that he could have his birthright if Jacob would give him some stew. While Isaac might not agree to his sons' exchange, their mother, Rebekah, cooked up a plan to trick Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau because she favored the younger brother. Although Isaac was blind, he could tell his children apart by smelling and touching them. In the story we learn that Esau was very hairy. When Isaac returned home from hunting one day, he told Esau to go hunting, prepare a special meal -- and then he would give his elder son his blessing to receive his inheritance. While Esau was gone, Rebekah prepared a stew for Isaac, dressed Jacob in Esau's clothes and put goat hair on his neck and hands so that Isaac would think that Jacob was Esau and give Jacob his blessing -- which he did. Kids can re-enact parts of the story by gluing fake "fur" to a pair of gloves and using fake fur to create short scarf to cover their necks. Kids can also help cook a stew to remember that this was the meal that Jacob cooked when Esau gave up birthright -- and that Rebekah cooked to trick Isaac. Younger children can combine canned soup with canned vegetables and add a few spices, which you can heat in a microwave. Older children can add beef cubes, cut veggies, spices, vegetable stock and tomato sauce to a slow cooker to make the stew.
When Jacob was on a trip to Haran, he stopped in a place called Bethel to sleep for the night. During the night, he had a dream where he saw angels going up and down a ladder that reached to heaven. God told Jacob that He would be with him, and give that land to his descendants. You can draw a ladder on construction paper and help the kids cut it out. They can then add angel stickers to the ladder to show the angels going up and down. When Jacob fell asleep, he used a rock as a pillow. Take the children outside and go on a hunt to find a large rock. Once the children find a suitable rock, have them take turns lying on the ground, using the rock as their pillow. The kids can pretend to be Jacob and even make snoring sounds to represent Jacob sleeping.
Jacob Wrestles an Angel
When Jacob was about to meet up with his brother for the first time after taking his birthright, he went off to pray. During that time, an angel came and wrestled with him. Jacob wouldn't give up until the angel agreed to bless him, even after the angel injured Jacob's hip. The angel changed Jacob's name to Israel because Jacob struggled with God and won. Children can act out this wrestling scene, including the part where Jacob becomes crippled. Next, kids can give one another new names, to commemorate how Jacob got a new name when he finished wrestling with the angel. You might help the children research the meanings of certain names so that they can put some thought into the new names they give their siblings or friends.
Jacob had a total of twelve sons by his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and his two concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah. Children can create a family tree so that they can clearly see which women bore which sons. The tree should show that Leah had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Rachel had Joseph and Benjamin. Dan and Naphtali were the sons of Bilhah, while Gad and Asher belonged to Zilpah. Jacob favored his son Joseph and gave him a gift of a coat of many colors. Kids can paint a coat with a variety of colors to resemble the one that Jacob gave his son Joseph.