Name pronunciation: JAY-kub
Origin of name: Hebrew
Meaning of name: Heel catcher, supplanter*
* See additional notes on the meanings of this name at the end of this post.
The Story Behind This Biblical Christian Baby Name
There are two people in the Bible with the name Jacob, and only one has a story. The briefer scriptural mention of the name Jacob is the father of Joseph, husband of Mary, in the genealogy listed in the book of Matthew.
The real story is with Jacob the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and the grandson of Abraham who the book of Romans calls the father of faithful Christian believers. Jacob was the second born of a set of twins, and he came out holding onto his brother Esau’s heel. Later, he talked Esau into trading his first-born inheritance for a bowl of soup and tricked his father into giving him the blessing reserved for the firstborn.
Despite this history of ambitious trickery (thus, “supplanter”, one who to takes the place of another), Jacob was chosen by God for greatness. Notable moments in his life include reconciling with his brother, dreaming about a stairway between heaven and earth (commonly referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder”), wrestling with the angel of God until he received God’s blessing, and receiving the new name “Israel” from the Lord, which means “contender, fighter” or “God prevails.” Jacob was also the father of the twelve sons from whom the twelve tribes of Israel descended.
Scriptures for the Bible Stories of the Boy Name Jacob
The primary scriptural references to the story of Jacob are found in Genesis 25-35. Read online, starting with Genesis 25:21.
Variations of the boy name Jacob
Male: Jacobo, Jacobus, Jacoby, Jake
Female: Jacoba, Jacobette, Jacobi, Jacobina, Jacobine
Additional Considerations about the Meanings of the Name Jacob
When naming a child, there can be some questions asked about the meaning of the name “Jacob”. On the one hand, he is the patriarch from which the nation of Israel takes its name, and someone the God of the Bible recognized and claimed as His own in a mighty way, calling Himself “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. On the other hand, Jacob’s mistakes certainly brought some negative associations to his name: supplanter, deceiver. Some baby naming resources actually list these as the primary meaning of the name.
However, it is our belief at Christian Meaning of Names that when all points are considered, the name Jacob is a fine and positive name, and a shining legacy to give any child. Consider this…
- The Hebrew people often named their children based on an event or emotion at the time of the child’s birth. When the twins Jacob and Esau were born, Esau came out first and Jacob followed — holding onto the heel of his brother. This action so caught the imagination of the family that they named him Jacob. The name sounds like the Hebrew word for “heel”. The original Hebrew words associated with this name generally track back to the idea of “to catch by the heel”, “to come from behind” or “to hold back”. The implication of “supplanter” or “deceiver” came into play later — not at his birth. And thus, it’s not necessarily central to the pure meaning of the root word of the name. (Genesis 25:24-26)
- Keep in mind that God knew beforehand — and prophesied to his mother Rebekah — that Jacob would take the dominant place away from his older brother. God always knew that Jacob would carry the blessing of Abraham to the next generation, and throughout Jacob’s life (and in spite of all his mistakes) the Lord ensured that end. (Genesis 25:21-23)
- The word “supplant” in reference to Jacob’s story is only used once! Esau, in his bitterness at being twice tricked, was the one who spoke of Jacob in terms of what was translated “supplanter” (Genesis 27:36).Scholars originally translating the Bible into English were working with what was considered a dead language. They often had to puzzle out meanings based on the context. Because Esau bitterly referred to his brother’s name in the context of having been tricked and Jacob taking his place, they chose the word “supplant”. That doesn’t mean that our English word “supplant” is actually a good fit for the primary meaning of that Hebrew word. The root Hebrew word translated “supplant” in Esau’s accusation is only used five times in the Old Testament. Once by Esau. Once by Hosea in reference to Jacob’s act of grabbing Esau’s heel at birth (Hosea 12:3, not translated “supplant” but “took by the heel”). A survey of the three other times it is used outside the Jacob-Esau story indicates it is also associated with speaking or words:
- The passage in Hosea actually puts Jacob and his name in a good light, emphasizing his overcoming nature. He takes his brother by the heel during birth. He had strength and power with God, wrestling with the angel of the Lord and prevailing. He wept and made supplication to God and God answered him. This man was imperfect, yes, but nevertheless a hero of sorts, learning to trust the God of his forefathers and “coming from behind” to take the dominant place in his family and the history of the Israelite people. (Hosea 12:2-5)
In conclusion, look at the overall story of the Bible man named Jacob. His personality and what he became during his lifetime of learning to follow God was such that God Himself renamed the man “Israel”, meaning “contender” or “fighter” and often said to mean “prince” or “prevailer” because of the rest of what God said in that passage (Genesis 32:28 KJV).Â Some people choose to focus on the words of Esau against Jacob, associating the name Jacob with “supplanter” and “deceiver”. But what is the story we see? It is the story of a child of destiny who started life by taking hold of his brother by the heel and who gained the blessing of God by grabbing on and not letting go (Genesis 32:24-30).
We hope this baby name information is useful to you. If you like this resource, tell your friends about the Christian Meaning of Names website, or link to us at www.ChristianMeaningOfNames.com!