'His Only Son' director bringing story of Jacob, Leah to big screen: 'Scripture is alive'

David Helling
David Helling | The Christian Post

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Following the success of “His Only Son,” a biblical drama retelling the story of Abraham and Isaac, filmmaker David Helling is preparing to bring more Old Testament figures to the big screen: Jacob, Leah and Rachel, highlighting their part in God’s plan of redemption.

“There have been depictions about Jacob's life before in film and different media,” Helling told The Christian Post. “But I've never seen anything the way that I want to tell it. Scripture already is alive, but I want to bring it before people's eyes so that by God's grace, they'll be drawn to the Word for themselves and want to dig in for themselves.”

According to Helling, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, his approach to Jacob’s story promises a fresh portrayal that delves deep into the biblical hero’s struggle and transformation. He described Jacob as an often misunderstood, complicated figure whose story mirrors the struggles many believers face today.

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“This man tried to do everything in his own strength. He was named ‘heel grabber,’ he was trying to wrestle that Abrahamic blessing and con his own father to get the blessing of the Father,” Helling said. “Ultimately, the Lord had to break him of faculties and give him a fully new identity.”

He wants to shift the narrative focus from the commonly depicted love story with Rachel to a more profound exploration of Jacob’s life and legacy, especially concerning his wife, Leah, who is pivotal in the biblical lineage that eventually led to the Messiah.

“Jacob's life has always really been portrayed with a focus on this love story between Jacob and Rachel,” he said. “That's not what Scripture points to at all. Leah is the wife that he was given, and Leah is the line of the Messiah. Leah is the one whom he was asked to be buried next to. [I wanted to] get at her heart, what it would’ve been like from her perspective. May God be glorified in it."

Later this year, Helling is launching a crowdfunding investment for “Jacob” through Angel Studios, the production company behind his 2023 film “His Only Son.” The film follows Abraham, Isaac and their two servants as they journey three days to the place where the offering will be made, encountering a series of dangers along the way. 

“His Only Son” was the first theatrical film to crowdfund for marketing funds to pay for distribution and advertising expenses. The film’s crowdfunding campaign raised more than $1,235,000 for print and advertising costs and subsequently made waves, grossing over $12 million at the box office

For Helling, “His Only Son” was the culmination of years of often unforgiving work. He used the G.I. Bill — a scholarship program for veterans — to fund his stint at film school and taught himself to sew, do visual effects and make costumes.

“It's super encouraging to see the Lord take it far beyond what I could have ever imagined,” Helling said. “I knew I was taking on one of the most controversial accounts in all of Scripture. I'd seen that time and time again, even way back in film school, when I was pursuing biblical films. It was always a point of contention with my non-believing friends and why they didn’t want to believe in God. Why would God tell a man to kill his own son? Taking it on and having it explode like this is absolutely an answered prayer; it's beyond what I could have ever imagined.”

According to Helling, his passion for dramatizing biblical narratives was further fueled by his recent trips to Israel. Spending significant time in locations tied to Jacob’s story, he shared how he engaged deeply with the land and its history, which informed his scriptwriting process.

"Being there ... you're walking in the places these patriarchs walked; it’s transformative," he said. “I went to the tomb where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Sarah and Rebecca and Leah are all buried, and that was so special to be able to see, OK, their bodies are here, and 4,000 years later … you see the monument of Abraham still giving testimony of the faith of these patriarchs and matriarchs to this day. Being able to sit and experience and hear from the experience of the actual descendants of Jacob in the land promised to Jacob's descendants forever was so special.”

Helling also emphasized his dedication to contextual accuracy and theological depth when dramatizing biblical stories. Reflecting on the traps some biblical dramas fall into, the filmmaker said he always aims to draw audiences into the historical and spiritual reality of the characters’ lives rather than adapting them to contemporary ideas.

“I think with biblical accounts, yes, and with any historical narratives, a lot of times, people will try to take those people and bring them to us so that we can relate to them in modern day,” he said.

“But I think what is more impactful, and actually falls in line with a proper hermeneutic … is that when you study Scripture, you want to get into its context and bring the viewer into their shoes, bring them into the world. Don't bring the world out to them; bring them into the world. Then, you can really see the perspective of the people who actually lived those things and have a greater understanding of Scripture.” 

The success of films like “His Only Son” and biblical dramas like “The Chosen” are evidence that people are eager for stories of faith, Helling said. He expressed gratitude for platforms like Angel Studios, which he said help amplify messages of faith to a global audience.

“My heart to in doing these [films] is to bring people to God's Word by His grace and to proclaim the Gospel, because we're to go out and tell the world, to make disciples and teach others what Christ taught His disciples,” he said. 

“In this day and age, we have the technology and the platform to be able to do things like this right now. That's God's mercy because the natural man is hostile to God, and those of us that are in Christ are not of this world," Helling continued.

“But right now, the message is resonating, and we shouldn't take it for granted, because ultimately, we know how things end. Things will get worse, but the Lord is going to return, and the Prince of Peace is going to reign, and there's hope in that. But for right now, there's a time when we can get messages like this out here. We need to be busy about doing it while we have the freedom to do so.”

Learn more about “Jacob” here.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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