Jacob, YaÔaqoµbh, is here derived from the verb Ôaµqabh which is formed from the noun ÔaµqeÆbh, “heel”; thus the verb connotes “to grasp by the heel” or, by extension, “to overreach” or “to supplant,”


See previous footnote.



Lansing Hicks, “Jacob (Israel),” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2 (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon, 1962), pp. 782–787, esp. 784.


Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Prayers for Sabbath and Rashi’s Commentary, transl. by M. Rosenbaum and Dr. A. M. Silbermann (London: Shapire, Vallentine & Co., 1946); “Genesis,” esp. p. 116.


Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981). Alter shows how the biblical narrators introduce playful and subtle articulations of the human situation. Although his reading of the Jacob stories is very sensitive and enlightening (and I approve his technique), I, nevertheless, do not believe he resolves the problems of Jacob’s “innocence.”

Alter notes that taµm is an “odd epithet” when attached to Jacob and thus contains “a lurking possibility of irony” (p. 183). But he leaves the suggestion barren. The use of this particular epithet immediately before Jacob’s acquisition of Esau’s birthright “is bound to give us pause,” he admits, “to make us puzzle over the moral nature of Jacob—an enigma we shall be trying to fathom twenty chapters later…” (pp. 43ff.).


Source critics often attribute Genesis 27:46–28:9 to P, the Priestly writer, rather than to the author of the rest of the cycle. I take the story here, however, in its final redacted form.


Cf. Job 9:20–22 where the moral and cognitive connotations of taµm alternate in the poignant complaint of Job who, like Jacob, is left in the dark about the meaning of his struggle.