We all love to find the meaning of Biblical Hebrew names.  But some have no clear meaning.  Others don’t have one that looks good or simple for a Hallmark card.  From what I can see, the name Rivkah is one of them.  The name of Rivkah also shows us that you can’t do the word to word translation with Hebrew.

The best way to determine what a word means in Biblical Hebrew is to see how it is used in the Bible.  The verb רבק from Rivkah’s name isn’t actually used.  Instead, it is used as a noun.  Sometimes when Hebrew wants to make a noun out of a verb, it puts a מ in front.

Let me try to explain the concept here:  when a farmer planned to use an animal, usually a calf, for slaughter, he wanted it to be meaty or fat.  In order to get the calf fat, he would tie it up so it couldn’t exercise.  (This may make you want to go on an exercise program at the gym.)  He would fetter the animal in a stall in order that it would gain weight.  American Literature has the expression from the Christian New Testament to “kill the fatted calf” when the father knew the prodigal son was coming home.   This depicts a Jewish celebration/sacrifice.

Why is Rivkah’s name taken from this process?  Some commentators wax poetic and say that she was so beautiful that Isaac was captured or fettered by her beauty.  Others say it talks about the yolk of two animals.

I don’t know; maybe you do.  Perhaps it talks about her life being a life of sacrifice, of not being able to do what she wanted to do because her life would have the ultimate purpose.  Her marriage tied her to an ultimate purpose, giving birth to Jacob, who would father the twelve tribes of Israel.


rivka hebrew root


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