Jacob is like a foundation stone. The full account of his life—a striking double drama, set near the beginning of the Bible (Gen. 25:19-chap. 50)—is like an initial guide to the practicalities of human existence. This part of the commentary concentrates on the opening drama (25:19–37:1).
The drama consists of six two-part scenes or diptychs. First there is an account of diverse facets of the family and world into which Jacob is born (25:19–26:33). The next scene focuses more directly on Jacob himself—on wresting a blessing from his older brother and on journeying abroad to work and marry (26:3427:45). Then, in a further development, there is a portrayal of Jacob as flourishing—in both children and flocks (25:31chap. 30).
In the later scenes, however, the flourishing falters. Jacob's journey toward home is shadowed by increasing fear (chaps. 3133). For a while he makes a remarkable recovery: though the rape of his only daughter leaves him powerless and virtually speechless, he responds to a divine call to move on (34:1–35:20). But then, following an episode of incest in the family, he seems to shrink, and the only one who flourishes is his older brother (35:21–37:1).