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Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Esau

Esau Esau

Esae is a son of Isaac and Rebekah; older twin of Jacob (Genesis 25:25).

The two nicknames of Esau, Edom and Seir, are both obvious in meaning and have to do with Esau's looks (red and hairy). His proper name however is not as easily derived.

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names translates with Covered With Hair, and the NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Hairy, but the regular word for hair in the Bible is sr (s'r). This noun also yields the name Seir.

The name Esau most likely comes from asa (asa), meaning to do, fashion, accomplish. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reports that there once was a root asa that meant to be hairy, and refers to an existing Arabic verb that means just that. But to a Hebrew audience to association to the very common Hebrew verb asa (asa), meaning to do, must have been much more obvious.

The twins Jacob and Esau have appealed to the imagination of Biblical exegetes since forever. Augustine of Hippo for instance thought that Jacob represented the saved and Esau the lost. Since Esau is also called Edom (Dustling, Corporeal One), perhaps these twins reminded Isaac and Rebecca of the basic workings of a human individual: the animal body, though wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) should be subjected to the grace filled mind (Romans 8:10). And although the body does all the work, the higher mind takes all the credit (Romans 6:12; also see 1 Corinthians 6:19 and Matthew 23:16-17).

To a Hebrew audience the name Esau means Doer.

Related names are Baaseiah, Asahel, Asaiah, Asiel, Eleasah, Jaasiel and Jaasu.



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