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Jacob, also known as Israel, took over the religious life of the people attached to him. He had them bury their images of pagan gods and consecrated a holy place at Beth El where he wrestled with God one night. There are many details of the proto-Judaism practiced by Jacob that are lost, it is not until Sinai that the laws and ordinances are written down, which transmitted them to the future intact. Before that time they had only an oral tradition, enforced by the authority of the reigning patriarch.

From Beth-El, Jacob traveled to Beth-lehem, where his beloved wife died giving birth to son number twelve, Benjamin. And she was buried in the tomb which still exists today, as shown above. One scandalous incident of note happened in this time: Jacob’s oldest son Reuben lay with his father’s concubine Bilhah. This was a first-magnitude faux pas that together with how Simeon and Levi responded to the rape of Dinah basically elevated Israel’s fourth son Judah into the running as the leader of all the tribes. Of course, it helps that the Jawhist, the author of this material, was a member of the tribe of Judah.

Isaac died at the age of 180, in the year 1,937 B.C.E. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Isaac appears to have been only a transitional figure in the Bible, a curiously passive character. He was fodder for a near-sacrifice, and merely aped his father’s ways when he passed off Rebecca as his sister. Blind in his old age, he was easily manipulated into giving the Blessing to his younger son favored by Rebecca rather than Esau, his own favorite.

After assisting Jacob in burying their father, Esau took everyone in his household south into the Negev desert and founded the nation of Edom, which existed from the southern border of Judah all the way to the seaport of Eilat, while Jacob stayed in Canaan. The land was too arid to sustain the livestock of both parties. Because the Israelites and the Edomites had the same grandfather (Isaac), they were first cousins. The Ishmaelites and Israelites have the same great-grandfather (Abraham) so they are second cousins.

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