The hieroglyphs in the center of the scarab seal above spell out Y‘qb-HR, the Egyptian transliteration of the Semitic Yaqub (Jacob). Found in 1969 at Shiqmona, a site near Haifa, Israel, the “Shiqmona scarab” dates to before 1730 B.C.

A second “Jacob” seal (above), first published in 1930 and now in Berlin, is almost identical to the Shiqmona scarab except that its hieroglyphs are enclosed by a cartouche, an oval indicating a royal name. Based on similarities in style and design, the author concludes that the Shiqmona and Berlin scarabs were made in the 18th century B.C. by the same Canaanite craftsman.

The author suggests that this Jacob was a Canaanite king and an ancestor of another king named Jacob who ruled over Egypt almost a century later as the second king of the XVth—Hyksos—Dynasty.

A pharaoh’s title consisted of five parts; only the final two—the prenomen and nomen—were enclosed in cartouches. The pharaoh’s contemporaries knew him by his prenomen, or throne name, and not by his nomen, or birth name, by which we know him today (for example, prenomen: Neb-kheperu-R‘; nomen: Tut-Ankh-Amuµn). The Shiqmona and Berlin scarabs record only the nomen.

The four seals above are all “Jacob” scarabs; the seals at left, top and bottom, contain the Hyksos king Jacob’s recognized prenomen: Mr.wsr.R‘.

Was the Canaanite king Y‘qb-HR (Jacob) the Biblical Jacob? Not directly, says the author. One theory maintains that during the eighth century B.C. the editor of the Jacob text merged legends surrounding the 18th-century Jacob of Canaan with the later Hyksos king of the same name, creating the Biblical Jacob.

Scarab seals were exported to all areas of the ancient Near East and are particularly numerous from the Hyksos era. Originally used to sign papyrus scrolls, the seals were also used as jewelry or charms.