Discover the meanings of thousands of Biblical names in Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault: Jacob

Jacob meaning


Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Jacob.html

🔼The name Jacob: Summary

He Who Sets [His Own] Heel Down, Who Closely Follows [Others]: He Who Hides [His Own] Intentions, Who Manipulates Feelings [Of Others]
From the verb עקב ('aqab), to set the heel down, to control one's feelings and goings, to hide one's will and intent.

🔼The name Jacob in the Bible

The one and only Old Testament Jacob is a son of Isaac and Rebekah, and twin brother of Esau (Genesis 25:26). After a battle with the Angel of YHWH, Jacob becomes arch-father Israel (Genesis 32:28).

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 name Jacob occurs 27 times in the New Testament; see full New Testament concordance.

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 came 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.

These variations of the name Jacob occur a total of 42 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.

🔼Etymology of the name Jacob

The name Jacob comes from the verb עקב ('aqab), meaning to "heel", to do the heel-thing:

Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary

The noun עקב ('aqeb) most literally means heel, but — since the word for foot, namely רגל (regel), euphemizes the male genitalia — is closely associated to a man's testicles, and hence his inner motivations and intentions (when wearing a long robe, the heel was the most obvious part of one's largely invisible legs). Just like the noun for knee yields the verb to kneel (i.e. to be blessed: to be so safe and well stocked as to sit in repose), so the verb עקב ('aqab), "to heel", tells of either (a) having someone "by the balls", i.e. manipulating them, taking control over their subconscious motivations, and (b) discretely covering one's own intentions, will and sentiments.

In the Bible, one's enlightened ratio was considered solar, whereas one's conscious feelings were lunar — and the sun, of course, was the quintessential revealer of the moon.

Both having a grip on someone's else's instincts and hiding one's own intentions could be alarming signs of deceitfulness, but in modern times one's ability to retain one's composure irrespective of one's feelings became a telling sign of one's gentility. The rise of polite society, unfortunately, went hand in hand with the rise of mass manipulation and propaganda, which the general public tends to frown upon (also because the general public rarely considers the alternative: a world without a uniform subliminal guidance).

In Biblical times, the virtues of manipulation and politeness were obviously not clear to everyone and our root was mostly associated with trickery and scheming: adjective עקב ('aqeb) means beguiling; adjective עקב ('aqob), insidious or deceitful; adjective עקב ('aqob), tricky or treacherous (of terrain). Noun עקבה ('aqeba) means deceitfulness and noun עקב ('eqeb), consequence.

Jacob earned his name (He Will Do The Heel Thing) because when he and his brother Esau were born, he held on to his brother's עקב ('aqeb), which may indeed have been his heel, but more likely his scrotum, and by implication, his openly displayed feelings and intensions. This heel-themed birth of Jacob described the emergence of a subset within the greater congregation of sons of Abraham (who are marked by circumcision, an alteration of both one's penis and one's heart: Deuteronomy 10:12, Galatians 3:6-9), while much later, this Jacobite subset in turn would become Israel when the angel struck Jacob on the ירך (yarek), his genitals, and separated/alienated it. Jacob became Israel when he stopped thinking with his testicles and walking to where his penis pointed, and began to rely on his stationary solar ratio.

Animals have no choice but to follow their openly exposed instincts and reveal their intensions (and wear their hearts on their sleeves, if they had sleeves) but humans have manners, language and clothes: from the Proto-Indo-European root "tek-", meaning to weave, come the English words text, textile and technology. The name of the earthly profession of Jesus, namely τεκτων (tekton), assembler (not carpenter) also comes from this same root. The Word of God (Genesis 15:1) and his Wings (Psalm 91:4) cover and shield, not only from dangers from outside but also from the danger of exposing oneself to predators.

As we explain more elaborately in our article on How The Mind Works, the story of Jacob and Esau also tells the story of the symmetry breach that set digitigrade (toe-walkers, Esau) apart from plantigrade (flat-footers, Jacob). In nature, toe-walkers (bovines, sheep, horses, deer) roam the plains in massive herds, whereas flat-footers (mice, rabbits, beaver, humans) prefer to live in burrows, holes or lodges. Toe-walkers will run toward what they like and away from what they don't like, which gives them a typically bi-polar world view, based on the knowledge of good and evil (essentially a polytheism). Flat-footers will always run toward home (whether for safety from danger or for company of familiars). The world-view of flat-footers is essentially monotheistic, with the communal home at the center of everything. Toe-walkers place their individual selves at the center of everything.

The home-centricity of the earliest flat-footed monotheists (as embodied in the Biblical character of Jacob) resulted in the formation of centralized collectives, and thus social codes, language, civilization and science: the Temple of God. The self-centricity of the toe-walkers produced the carnivores (all sorts of cats and dogs, which are also toe-walkers).

In Abraham, humanity began to modify and govern the relationship between one's feelings and one's behavior. In Isaac (He Will Cause Laughter), humanity began to experience and pursue pleasure, which implies a comfort and confidence that comes from technological sophistication (the control of fire, a shared means of communication and thus an intelligence apparatus, an ability to make utensils, tools and machinery that freed up time). In Jacob humanity began to utilize one's mastery of emotions and specifically one's ability to hide emotions and intentions behind clothing and social codes (this includes manners and kindness but also connivery). And the Jacobites weaponized this ability and learned how to manipulate and dominate those who openly revealed their intentions and feelings. Humans are flat-footers but all domesticated animals are of the toe-walking sort. Hence the prediction that "the older shall serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23).

🔼Jacob meaning

The name Jacob both means He Who Sets The Heel Down and He Who Closely Follows, or Who Hides His Intentions (the anachronistic Poker Face), and He Who Manipulates Other Men's Feelings.

Jacob is the name that reminds us that God created the world like a perfectly balanced deck of cards, and humanity took that deck and created the poker game that is our economy (in the broadest sense of the word). Individual humans must play with the hand they got dealt and can either bet small but safe, or bet big and risky, but they can't cheat lest they get thrown out of the game.

Since hiding one's feelings, desires and intentions is a learned skill, and often learned by deceivers (and actors), this skill is not always regarded as virtuous. Still, following someone's lead is a polite thing to do (Matthew 11:17). And covering up one's natural volatility with a ploy of common manners and systematic kindness is indeed considered a virtue all over the modern world. Or as they say: imitation is the highest form of flattery (Matthew 5:48, Ephesians 5:1).

Apart from our name and beside Genesis 27:36, the word יעקב (he/it does the heel thing) occurs twice the Bible: in Job 37:4 it's used in the sense of 'he holds back [thunderings]' and in Jeremiah 9:4 as meaning 'he will deal craftily'.