🔼The name Rachel: Summary
- From the noun רחל (rahel), ewe.
🔼The name Rachel in the Bible
Rachel is one of four arch-mothers of Israel (Genesis 29:6). She is one of two wives of Jacob, sister of Jacob's first wife Leah (note that in the later Levitical code the marrying two sisters became prohibited — Leviticus 18:18); daughter of Laban, who is the son of Bethuel, who is the son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham.
The two sons of Rachel are Joseph and Benjamin, and Rachel dies while giving birth to the latter. Rachel names her youngest son Ben-Oni but Jacob changes his name into Benjamin. Rachel is buried by the way to Bethlehem Ephrath (Genesis 35:19).
Rachel's name appears in Greek in the New Testament (spelled Ραχηλ), in the harrowing observation of Jeremiah 31:5 of Rachel weeping over her children, which Matthew applies to Herod's massacre of the infants of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:18).
🔼Etymology of the name Rachel
The name Rachel is identical to the word רחל (rahel) meaning ewe:
The noun רחל (rahel) means ewe (a female sheep). It occurs only four times in the Old Testament, which suggests that it describes a specific sort of ewe.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names agree: The name Rachel means Ewe.
Still, it must be noted that sheep and such are mentioned very often in the Bible — Israel was a agricultural society, after all — yet our word occurs only four times. This suggests that it doesn't simply refer to any old ewe but rather a special kind or one in a rare fix. What fix that might be is unknown, but it this rare word that is so famously used in Isaiah 53:7: "Like a sheep — רחל (rahel) — that is silent before its shearers, so did he not open his mouth".