by Brad Scott
The God that we worship is called the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why these three? Because God foreknew that these men would receive His Seed or His Word. The lives of these three would provide the paradigm of humans trusting in YHVH while in a fallen, imperfect world. It is the life of Ya'aqov (Jacob) that would end up best demonstrating this model of imperfection and multiple flaws. The third son in this trio of not so perfect children was Ya'aqov.
The verbal root of this name is 'aqov (עקב), which means to restrain, to hold back or delay. It is translated in our Scriptures as heel, supplant, stay, wait, footsteps, because and deceitful. The contextual use of these words is based upon our verbal root of holding something back. My friend Bill Cloud accurately teaches that when this word has a yod (י) placed at the beginning of the word it reflects the nuance of a hand catching a heel. The first occurrence of words is important in their meaning throughout the rest of the text. Ya'aqov grabbed the heel of his twin brother Esav to hold him back or to restrain him from crushing Ya'aqov's head.
Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 25:26And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.
The context of His name here is found embedded in the words that surround this incident. It is a clear, insightful picture of what God already foreknew Ya'aqov (Israel) would have to endure for the next 4000 years. Esau will always be struggling to regain a birthright that he despised. But God already knew when they were in the womb that Esau would despise his birthright. Ya'aqov did not deceive anyone, as most commentaries state, but rather he held Esau back from trying to forcefully gain something that God already knew he had no true devotion for. I would like to add three other interesting things about this word. Ya'aqov is Israel and God is the God of Israel. God's house is His people. The subroot qav means a container or a place to gather. It is also understood that our English word Yankee and ankle, and the Yiddish word Yankle come from this word. Notice the connection (pun intended) of heel and ankle. The song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was written by George M. Cohan and was originally called "Yankle Doodle Dandy". It is also traced to our English name Jack and the British Union Jack.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊