“Mommy, why does Jacob’s name mean trickster? That doesn’t sound very nice,” your preschooler responds as you read the story of Jacob’s and Esau’s birth. “Jacob was pretty tricky,” you reply, “but it caught up with him in the end. After he learned his lesson, he wrestled with God and God changed his name.” This is only one part of Jacob’s story, found in Genesis 25-35, that fascinates your child.
Jacob the Trickster
“Jacob and Esau didn’t always get along, just like you and your brother sometimes feud,” you explain to your little one. Read how Jacob bargains for Esau’s birthright in Genesis 25:27-34 and help your child heat a can of stew or help you make stew from scratch for lunch. Talk about how hungry Esau must have been to promise his brother that he could have everything that was their father’s. Read Genesis 27:1-46 and help your child disguise himself as Jacob did to fool Isaac into blessing him. You might bless him with a similar blessing to the one Isaac gave Jacob. Ask him, “How do you think Esau felt when he found out that Jacob stole his blessing? How did Isaac feel about the trick?” Your preschooler might understand why Jacob felt he had to run away.
“Jacob had a dream after he fled from his brother. In the dream, he saw a ladder used by angels to travel from earth to heaven and back.” Your little one can’t imagine what that was like or what it might be like to hear God speak. Have her build a stone alter like Jacob did at Bethel. She can create a picture of Jacob’s ladder or build a diorama of Jacob at Bethel. She can tell you what she thinks of God’s promise to protect and bless Jacob and whether God looks after her.
“Jacob went far away from his family to escape his brother’s anger and he met a beautiful maiden. Her name was Rachel.” Your preschooler is shocked that Laban would trick him with Leah instead. Promise your child a gift and then give her something different. Ask her, “How does that feel? Did Laban trick Jacob like Jacob tricked Esau?” You might talk about how harmful dishonesty can get between people or how God blessed Jacob despite Laban’s treachery. Lay out 14 calendars to represent how long Jacob worked for Rachel.
Jacob Wrestles God
“When Jacob took his family and headed home, he met God on the way back.” Tell your little one how Jacob wrestled with God and how God changed Jacob’s name. Show your preschooler the spot where God put Jacob’s hip out of joint using a diagram of the human body. Talk about why God changed Jacob’s name. “What lessons had he learned since he tricked his brother?” you might ask. You could talk about the meaning of your child’s name or look for a name with a meaning your child would like to have.
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