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Meaning and etymology of the name Jacob

Jacob Jacob

Jacob is a son of Isaac and Rebekah, and twin brother of Esau (Genesis 25:26). After a battle with the Angel of the Lord he becomes arch-father Israel (Genesis 32:28).
In the NT the name Jacobos belongs to two of the apostles; one son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21, 10:2, together with his brother John a.k.a. Boanerges) and one son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3). A full brother of Jesus is also called Jacobos, and becomes known as James the Just (Matthew 13:55). The English name James is a transliteration of the Greek name Jacobos, which in turn in a transliteration of the Hebrew name Jacob. See our article on the name James for more details.

The name Jacob comes from the verb aqab (aqab) meaning take by the heel, supplant. This verb doesn't occur in the Bible, only the nouns that it was derived of:

aqab (aqab), meaning heel, hoof, rear of a troop, footstep. It seems that the basic idea of this word is anything last of lowest. It may denote the hoofs of horses (Genesis 49:17) but also a man's buttocks (Jeremiah 13:22). It means the rear of a troop (Genesis 49:19) or the print of one's foot (Psalm 89:51).
In Psalm 49:5 the word aqab occurs to (probably) mean iniquity (of my surrounding foes). The prophet Jeremiah uses this word as an adjective meaning insidious or deceitful (17:9); Hosea makes it mean foot-tracked (6:8).

The word aqab also frequently occurs as a noun or adverb simply meaning consequence or consequence of; because of (Isaiah 5:23, Genesis 22:18, Psalm 19:12), or even to indicate the end of time (Psalm 119:33).

The name Jacob may be simply facsimilative and inconsequential; he was named after how he was holding on to Esau's heal. But in Genesis 25:23 we read that God foretold the twins' fate: the older shall serve the younger. Young Jacob certainly must have displayed more behaviors, but the holding on to Esau's heel must have reminded his parents of the prophesy, and named the boy accordingly.

BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBS Study Bible Name List both read Supplanter. BDB adds Heel, Overreach, One Closely Following. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads He Will Supplant, A Heeler, One Who Trips Up or Takes Hold By The Heel.

Related names are Akkub and Jaakobah.



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