Jacob’s heel grabbing in the womb was a foreshadowing of future events. First, he conned his brother Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew (Gen 25:29-34). Then, when their father Isaac was old and blind, Jacob conspired with their mother Rebekah to trick Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing of the firstborn instead of Esau (Gen 27).
But then the tables turned on Jacob. After fleeing to his uncle Laban to escape Esau’s wrath, he experienced exploitation and deception firsthand when Laban tricked him into marrying both of his daughters (instead of just Rachel) for several years of free labor. Even after he finally married Rachel, she remained barren for years.
By this time, Jacob had learned a thing or two about not having his every wish granted on a whim. He’d had an encounter with God on his way to Laban, after which he set up an altar of his own (Gen 28). On his way back from Laban, he met God again, but this time he held on to (wrestled with) God all night for a blessing (Gen 32). This is in stark contrast to the ‘freebies’ he’d received earlier in his life from Esau and Isaac. After that encounter, God formally changed his name to Israel.
God’s blessing upon Israel did not make him immune from suffering and hardship. His beloved wife Rachel died in childbirth shortly after his return home (Gen 35:16-19), and then her firstborn Joseph was taken from him for more than a decade (Gen 37).
Despite his great grief and loss, Israel remained faithful to the covenants he had made with God. When he learned of Joseph’s survival and set out to reunite with his son in Egypt, Israel once again offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. In response, God promised to accompany Israel to Egypt, assuring him that once there, Joseph would be with him until the end (Gen 46). And Joseph was (Gen 49).