Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Rebekah

Rebekah is a spelling variant of Rebecca and one which is used in many if not most versions of the Bible. Rebekah obviously comes from the Bible as the wife of Isaac and the mother of Jacob and Esau. As such, she is a prominent matriarchal figure – the grandmother of the future tribes of Israel – and thus a favorite name among Jewish people (like Sarah and Rachel). The etymology of the name is debated. The Hebrew name “Rivka” possibly means ‘to snare, bind, trap’ but it is also said to mean ‘captivating’ (we like this meaning best). Some etymologists believe the name is of Aramaic origin (an ancestral language of Arabic) meaning ‘soil, earth.’ Perhaps it will be more helpful to understand Rebekah’s story in the Old Testament. In Genesis, Abraham does not want Isaac to marry a local Canaanite woman so he sends his servant to find a wife in his own ancestral land of Haran in upper Mesopotamia. The servant is skeptical at the prospect of success, doubtful that a woman will follow him back to Canaan, but Abraham assures him God will assist in this endeavor - however, if the woman does not follow the servant back of her own accord, then Abraham absolves him of all responsibility (at which point we’re sure the servant sighs a proverbial “phew!”). Upon arrival in the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia, the servant beholds Rebekah: “The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known.” [Genesis 24:16]. That’s Biblical-speak for virgin. Rebekah graciously offers the servant water for himself and his camels, thus fulfilling his prayer to the Lord indicating that she must be the one. After negotiations with her family and the offering of gifts, it comes down to Rebekah’s decision to follow the servant back to Canaan to marry Isaac. Her words are simple: “I will go.” So she’s not exactly ‘snared and trapped’ as one of the etymological origins might suggest; quite the contrary. The name’s other possible meaning (i.e., ‘captivating’) makes more sense for this beautiful, compassionate and kind young maiden. Given the name’s Biblical origins in the Old Testament, Rebecca has always been a common Jewish name; however, it’s been used by Christians in the English speaking world since the 14th century. The name’s popularity grew during the Reformation and the Puritans picked it up in the 17th century and would eventually bring the name to America. Rebekah is considered an “old-school” version of the more commonly used English Rebecca.

All About the Baby Name – Rebekah



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For all intents and purposes, Rebekah came into use in America during the 1950s. She slowly climbed the charts until reaching her peak popularity during the 1980s and 90s. Although she never made the Top 100 list of most commonly used female names in the United States, she did hover around #150 for a while. Today, Rebekah is back down to mild moderation and definitely not as popular as Rebecca (although impressively close on a relative basis). Rebekah feels like a more ancient, Biblical version of the more modern looking Rebecca. At the end of the day, Rebecca was derived from Rebekah (this spelling came first) in case you’re a super-traditionalist. Rebekah is the spelling used in the King James Version of the Bible. Plus, a lot of American parents love weird spelling variations of names, and while Rebekah is not a made-up spelling by any means, it certainly adds some uniqueness to the more common Rebecca. Becky and Becca are darling pet forms (or even Reba if you’re a fan of the country music singer).

Quick Facts























Cultural References to the Baby Name – Rebekah

Literary Characters


Rebekah is the central character in Orson Scott Card’s 2001 novel, “Rebekah” from the Women of Genesis series. It is the second novel in the series (after “Sarah”). It precedes “Rachel and Leah”. The novel follows Rebekah and the story of Isaac through her perspective. Although the storyline does not deviate from the Genesis story, Card takes some liberties to expand on some of the details and themes in order to create a more fictionalized yet interesting account of this remarkable woman.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Rebekah

Popular Songs


a song by The D4

Hey Rebekah
a song by The Fold

Famous People


Rebekah Cochran (author)
Rebekah Hurth (musician)
Rebekah Palmer (writer)
Rebekah Johnson (songwriter)
Rebekah Brooks (journalist/editor)
Rebekah Kochan (actress)
Rebekah Ryan (singer)
Rebekah Teasdale (model)

Children of Famous People


We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Rebekah

Historic Figures


Rebekah shows up in the Bible very early on in the book of Genesis. She is from the ancestral lands of Abraham and thus related to him as his grand-niece. She is also the sister of Laban, who will eventually become the father of Leah and Rachel (wives of Jacob). In the Bible, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac in Mesopotamia (his homeland); he does not want Isaac marrying a Canaanite woman given their proclivity for idolatry. The servant is doubtful that a maiden will travel so far (from Mesopotamia to Canaan) to fulfill Abraham’s wishes, but he goes dutifully. Upon reaching the ancestral lands, he prays that God will give him a sign – which ever woman offers him and his camels water from her well will be the one. Before he is even done with his prayer, the servant immediately sees the beautiful Rebekah. She kindly offers this leathery old stranger water from her well, and so he knows she is the one. Returning to her household, and equipped with offerings of gifts, the servant asks to bring the maiden back to Canaan to marry Isaac. The family resists, wanting to keep the girl longer, but agree to ask Rebekah to decide. Women didn’t have much of a voice back then; Rebekah can be considered a feminist symbol for her free-will and independent-mind. “I will go.” She says. She returns to Canaan and upon seeing Isaac quickly covers her face with a veil, so impressed is she by his spiritual aura. After Isaac and Rebekah marry, it takes her 20 long years to conceive a child (now in ancient times, this would be serious torture for a woman like Rebekah). Both Isaac and Rebekah pray mightily for offspring, and finally she conceives twins. She feels them unsettled in her womb; worried, she goes to God. She is told that “the older will serve the younger” and that “one people will be stronger than the other.” We know now that this prophesy would be fulfilled. Her son Esau was born first and Jacob came out of her womb immediately after “holding the heel” of his brother. As Rebekah’s favorite son, she would go onto help Jacob steal Esau’s birthright and blessing. She intuitively knows that Esau is simply not responsible or holy enough to receive the blessing himself. Rebekah devises a plan whereby Jacob – in the guise of Esau – will bring Isaac his goat meat as he lay blind and close to death. After his meal, Isaac will give his blessing to Jacob (unwittingly) and not Esau. Jacob immediately sees a flaw in his mother’s plan. You see, Esau is hairy and Jacob is smooth-skinned. Not to worry, Mama Rebekah had that one figured out, too. She takes the hairy skin of the goat and wraps it around Jacob. When he goes to his father, Isaac will feel the hair and know it’s Esau. Everything goes as planned, and Jacob receives the blessing. Of course, Esau arrives moments later to see this deception and furiously vows to kill Jacob, so Rebekah sends Jacob off to live with her brother Laban (this is how Leah and Rachel come into the picture). She would eventually die an old woman and never see the eventual reconciliation of her sons. Nonetheless, Rebekah is one of the more colorful women in the Bible – a matriarch, a free-thinker, a proactive go-getter – and if this isn’t enough, she’s beautiful, spiritual, compassionate and caring.