A: For the majority of Jews and Christians, Jacob and Esau were undoubtedly real people. However, for historians and most biblical scholars, Jacob and Esau were not historic…al people at all. Let's look at some of the evidence. We can start with the incredible lifespan of Jacob - 147 years. when we look at the lifespans of Jacob, his biblical father Isaac and Abraham before him, we find: .
Abraham lived to 175 (5 X 5 X 7) .
Isaac lived to 180 (6 X 6 X 5) .
Jacob lived to 147 (7 X 7 X 3) .
Each lifespan involves a perfect square (5, 6, then 7 in a numeric series), .
the third factor also forms a series (7, 5, 3) .
In each case the sum of the factors is 17, a favourite number in most of the genealogies of the Book of Genesis . Even allowing for the physically impossible lifespans, this is so improbable that we can safely assume that the Patriachs never lived to such great ages even if we allow that they might have once lived. The ages of the Patriarchs were based on numerology, not history. We can also look critically at the Genesis story in chapter 38 about the Judah, and notice the stories of King David have similarities that could individually be dismissed as mere coincidence but collectively are so improbable as to point to a common origin: .
Both were shepherds in their youth and became the heads of the family. Judah established the tribe of Judah. David established a dynasty destined to rule Judah forever..
Judah separated from his brothers to live in Adullum (Genesis 38:1) David fled the Israelites to live in a cave at Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1).
Judah had a Canaanite friend named Hirah; David formed an alliance with the Canaanite king of Tyre named Hiram..
Judah married the daughter of Shua; David married Bathsheba, who in Chronicles is called by the variant name Bathshua, meaning 'daughter of Shua'..
Tamar occurs in two locations in the Bible: first as the daughter-in-law of Judah; second as the daughter and also, briefly, grand-daughter of David. In both narratives, Tamar is associated with illicit sex..
Judah was tricked into admitting his guilt, after sex with his daughter-in-law (Genesis 38) David was tricked into admitting his guilt, after he took Uriah's wife (2 Samuel chapters 11-12).
A common origin to the two stories would either mean that an ancient legend had gradually come to apply to two different men, or that the biblical author fabricated at least one story, with the other in mind. As we can be reasonably sure that King David existed, based on some extra-biblical evidence, this points to Jacob as a likely fictional character. Jacob was already a character of myth but the biblical author needed a story of his life, so looked to the story of King David for inspiration. Undoubtedly, the story of Jacob and Esau that we now have in the Bible was intended to be the story of two men, but there is evidence that this story evolved from a very different story right back in the very beginnings of Israel. We now have compelling evidence that the Israelites were at all times polytheistic until the destruction of the kingdom in 722 BCE. Their gods included the moon god and the sun god, in many ways rivals just as the sun and the moon seemed to be rivals. I will show that, in early tradition, Jacob was the moon god and Esau was the sun god. The dominant cult in Israel at the time this story evolved was the cult of the moon god. And it was only later that the story of the brothers became stories of extraordinary humans. The birth of Jacob was more typical of the birth legend of pagan gods than a true story of ordinary mortals. The twins, Esau and Jacob, fought in Rebekah's womb. Then, at the moment of birth, Jacob, the second born, held onto Esau's heel as if to hold him back, requiring a physical ability far beyond that of mortal babies. As a supposed historical account it is an implausible story without witnesses, presaging their rivalry in later life. In an ancient tradition inserted into the story of Jacob and Esau shortly after a dispute between the brothers, Jacob was left alone and wrestled with a man all night until the break of day, when the man said he must leave (Genesis 32:24ff). Even though his leg was dislocated, Jacob refused to let his opponent go unless he blessed Jacob. That the 'man' was a god is amply demonstrated - Jacob asked for his blessing, he had the prerogative of changing Jacob's name, Jacob's new name was Israel (generally assumed to mean "wrestled with God') and Jacob called the place Peniel ('the face of God') because he had seen God face to face. If the man who wrestled with Jacob was a god, then Jacob was also a god in the very early tradition behind this passage, as demonstrated by the fact that he was such an even match for his opponent. And if the opponent was a god, he was also a sun god - daybreak signalled the end of the contest, he had to leave Jacob before the sun could rise, then the sun rose upon Jacob. This was the daily struggle in which the sun god defeats the moon god at dawn. This tells us that Jacob was indeed the moon god in early times; it does not mention Esau by name, but is interleaved with stories of the rivalry between Jacob and Esau. All the stories of sibling rivalry began as stories of rivalry between two gods, only later becoming stories of rivalry between two human brothers, and the story of Jacob wrestling is simply the most primitive and obvious among them. There is a great deal more evidence that the patriarchs were originally gods, but hopefully the point is made. Jacob and Esau were not historical people. The Israelites eventually saw themselves as 'children of Israel' because they were descended from him, but the earliest Israelites were 'children of Israel' because they worshipped him. ( Full Answer )