Dan Jacobson was born in Johannesburg to Jewish Lithuanian parents. He has worked as a teacher in London, a journalist in South Africa and has also spent some time on a kibbutz in Israel. He moved to England in 1958 where he pursued an academic career, starting as a lecturer at University College London and becoming Emeritus Professor in 1994. He has also held the positions of vice-chairman of the Literature Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain (74-76) and Fellow of the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University in 1981. As a Jew, he has an interest in Old Testament history and many of his books take on Biblical themes.