Staatliche Museum zu Berlin-Preubischer Lulturbesitz Gemaledgalerie/Photo: Jorg P. Andres

Is Palestine named for the patriarch Jacob in commemoration of his encounter with an angel? Author David Jacobson suggests that the Biblical account of Jacob’s wrestling bout (Genesis 32:25–27), illustrated in Rembrandt’s 1658 painting, “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel,” may have provided the Greeks with the inspiration for their name for the Land of Israel. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible, uses the verb epalaien, “he wrestled,” to describe Jacob’s actions; “wrestler” in Greek is palaistês. Jacobson suggests that Palaistinê was the Greek term for the Hebrew Yisra’el (Israel), which itself means “wrestled with the Lord.” This also provided a ready pun with Peleshet, Land of the Philistines.