🔼The name Jacob: Summary
- He Who Closely Follows, Supplanter
- From the verb עקב ('abaq), to follow at the heel or supplant.
🔼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 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 ('abaq), meaning to follow at the heel or supplant:
The noun עקב ('aqeb) means heel or rear, but may describe anything lowest, last or sequentially coming. Verb עקב ('abaq) means to follow at the heel or supplant. Adjective עקב ('aqeb) means overreacher; adjective עקב ('aqob), insidious or deceitful; adjective עקב ('aqob), tricky or treacherous (of terrain). Noun עקבה ('aqeba) means deceitfulness and noun עקב ('eqeb), consequence.
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 prophecy, 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.
Besides in Genesis 27:36, he word יעקב occurs twice as regular word in the text: in Job 37:4 it's used in the sense of 'he holds back [thunderings]' and in Jeremiah 9:4 as meaning 'deal craftily' (NAS) or 'will supplant' (KJV).