The name Jacob in the Bible
In the New Testament the Greek transliteration of the name Jacob, namely Iakob (Ιακωβ), is assigned to, besides arch-father Jacob (Matthew 1:2), only one man, namely Jacob the father of Joseph, the father-by-law of Jesus, according to Matthew's genealogy (Matthew 1:15; Luke traces his genealogy through David's son Nathan and not Solomon, as does Matthew, and has Eli as Joseph's father; Luke 3:23).
The Hellenized version of the Hebrew name Jacob, namely Ιακωβος, Iakobos, is slightly more common. It belongs to the following men:
- A disciple of Jesus and one of two sons of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21, 10:2, together with his brother John also known as Boanerges).
- Another disciple of Jesus, namely a son of Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3).
- A full brother of Jesus, who comes to be 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.
Etymology of the name Jacob
The name Jacob comes from the common Hebrew noun עקב (aqeb) meaning heel or rear:
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 NOBSE 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.