Jacob (1994)  TV



Director:  Peter Hall.

Starring:  Matthew Modine (Jacob), Lara Flynn Boyle (Rachel), Sean Bean (Esau), Joss Ackland (Isaac), Juliet Aubrey (Leah), Irene Papas (Rebekah), Giancarlo Giannini (Laban), Christoph Waltz (Morash), Christoph M. Ohrt (Be'or), Philip Locke (Diviner), Daniel Newman (Reuben, age 14), Cecilia Dazzi (Billah), Yvonne Scib (Judith).

the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants



Spoiler Warning:  below is an entire summary of the movie.

Abraham begat Isaac who begat Esau (the hairy one) and Jacob (the smooth one).  Esau and Jacob are fraternal twins.  Esau, as the first born (even if by a few seconds) is the favorite of his father Isaac, while Jacob is the favorite of his mother, Rebekah.  Esau as first born has rights of inheritance and birthright.  Both boys are important because God told Rebekah when she was pregnant with them that "Two nations are within your womb."

Esau is the man of brawn and Jacob is the man of caring and kindness. Esau lives so in the present that he willingly gives away his inheritance to Jacob for a little porridge.  Esau makes his mother angry because he has married outside their tribe to a Canaanite and is building a stone house in the style of the Canaanites.  She is afraid that Esau will try to turn her family into Canaanites. 

Isaac is nearing death and he wants to give Esau his blessing.  But Rebekah puts lamb's skin on the forearms and neck of Jacob and sends him into see his father.  His father is fooled by the ruse and gives him his blessing.  When Esau arrives and asks for the blessing, he becomes enraged at Jacob when he learns of the deception.  He threatens to kill Jacob the day after their father dies. 

Rebekah tells Jacob that he must leave.  His father tells him to go to Padanaram to find a wife.  He suggests that Jacob take one of the daughters of Laban, his mother's brother.  Esau sees Jacob leaving, but refuses to intervene.  But his brother-in-law implies that he will kill Jacob.  The brother-in-law follows Jacob and his little caravan of burros loaded down with goods.  Jacob discovers that someone is following him.  To get away he has to leave most of his animals and goods behind.  He takes one of the burrros with him up the mountain, but the poor burro slips off a cliff to his death.  Now Jacob is completely alone.  He then sees Esau's brother-in-law riding away with his remaining burros and camel.

Jacob is getting desperate.  At night he sees a strange light.  God speaks to him: "I give you and your descendants this land."  The next day Jacob runs into a caravan at a water well.  They are from Haran.  Jacob asks them if they know Laban, son of Nahor.  They do and they introduce him to a daughter of Laban, Rachel, who takes him to her father. 

Jacob is happy to see Laban and his family.  He tells them that he was robbed by thieves.  They show him their cabinet of idols honoring their household gods. Jacob tells them of the God of Abraham.  Jacob agrees to work with the sheep and Laban soon realizes that whatever Jacob touches it flourishes. 

Jacob wants to marry Rachel.  But her older sister Leah, according to custom, must marry first.  If Jacob and Rachel are discovered kissing, they both will be subject to stoning. 

Laban wants to hold on to this talented Jacob, so he gets Jacob to agree to a servitude of seven years in order to marry Rachel.  Rachel is happy, but Leah is very upset. 

Seven years later.  Jacob now wants to marry Rachel and leave for his own lands.  But Laban does not want Jacob to leave.  He is too profitable.  So he and his boys deceive Jacob.  At the wedding ceremony, the bride is completely covered and the bedroom is kept dark.  In the morning Jacob finds out that it is Leah who he has laid with instead of Rachel.  Jacob is furious, but the crafty Laban gets him to agree to the idea of having two wives: Leah and Rachel.  And to have the privilege of a second wife, he must work seven more years of servitude. 

Leah gives birth to four sons. Rachel is very jealous and wants her own child.  She begs her husband to lay with her slave girl, Bilhah, and then she will give birth on Rachel's knees, thereby making the child Rachel's. 

Several years later.  Now Jacob has seven sons and one daughter by Leah, two sons by Bilhah, and another son by Leah's slave girl, Zilpah. 

Then Rachel becomes pregnant.  Jacob gets Laban to agree that he will give Jacob all the black, spotted or speckled goat in their herds so he can have a herd of his own.  But Laban and his sons cheat Jacob again.  They remove all the goats that are black, spotted or speckled out of their herds, so when Jacob goes to select his goats, he can find none that can be selected according to the agreement.  But Jacob, by selective mating, develops a big flock of young black goats and he selects these for his herd. 

Rachel gives birth to Joseph, a name which means "the one who will add to our people."

When Laban and his sons go up to the mountains to bring their goats down, Jacob stays behind.  When the fellows are away, Jacob, his family and others start out on the journey to the lands of Jacob.  Before leaving, Rachel takes all the household gods.

When Laban comes home and sees everyone gone and all his idols missing, he becomes very angry at Jacob and vows that they will kill Jacob.  Laban, his sons, and his men follow after Jacob.  They catch up to Jacob, but Jacob knows nothing about the missing idols.  He offers to let Laban search their tents, which he does.  But the clever Rachel, covers up the idols, sits on them and pretends that she is ill.  Her father does not find the idols. 

But Jacob's problems are not at an end.  He learns that Esau is also coming after him.  Jacob starts to wonder if God has abandoned him, but he receives a reassuring message.  God also tells Jacob that his name will now be Israel. 

Esau arrives with his men.  He is still furious with Jacob, but Esau relents.  He asks Jacob and his people to follow him to Seir.  Jacob agrees, but after Esau is gone, he sets out in a different direction feeling that living with Esau would lead to a life of constant conflict.

They arrive at the town of Shechem in Canaan and pitch their tents east of the town.  Jacob purchases the land from Hamor, Prince of Shechem. 


Pretty good movie.  Matthew Modine did a very good acting job as Jacob.  Two others that stand out are Lara Flynn Boyle as Rachel and Giancarlo Giannini as Laban.  It was interesting to learn about some of the customs of these early peoples.  All the details of the Biblical story are handled well.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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