Why Heelcatcher?

My favorite Bible character is Jacob in the Old Testament. Jacob’s name means “heelcatcher.”

Jacob was a twin. His twin brother, Esau (i.e., Hairy), emerged from the womb first, covered with hair (probably lanugo). Grasping his heel, apparently coming out arm first, was his younger twin, Jacob.

Esau and Jacob were as different as night and day.

Esau was strong, rugged, tough, a hunter, an outdoorsman, a man’s man. In today’s world, he would be the guy dressed in camouflage, full beard, big truck, gun rack in the back, deer strapped to the hood.

Jacob was a “mild man,” a dweller in tents, a momma’s boy, intelligent, creative, sensitive, and conniving. In today’s world, he would be the computer nerd, the book worm, wearing glasses, going to school, and making the honor roll. With apologies to John Eldridge, Jacob was “mild at heart.”

Both Esau and Jacob were masculine but they exhibited it in different ways. Unfortunately Esau’s masculinity was the type that appealed to his father, Isaac, mainly because Isaac loved to eat wild game. Isaac’s favoritism toward Esau was matched by his wife Rebekah’s favoritism toward Jacob.

“Heelcatcher” was probably meant as a term of endearment but it came to define Jacob’s life. Jacob grasped at all he could to get ahead, to feel secure, to feel competent, to make it in life. To be a heelcatcher particularly meant to get ahead by tripping others up. In athletic terms, Jacob would have been a competitor, doing all he could to beat and surpass the guy next to him. It wasn’t about playing the game; it was about being better than someone else.

Though Jacob had his mother’s love, he longed for his father’s blessing. Unfortunately the only way he could get his father’s blessing was by pretending to be Esau.

I don’t believe Jacob was ever really comfortable in his own skin. His insecurity drove his ambition. He grasped at things because of the emptiness of his heart. Even God was a means to an end in Jacob’s mind.

But God met Jacob one stress-filled night. In perhaps the strangest story of the Bible, Jacob wrestled all night with God, with God in the flesh, with the Angel of the Lord, with the pre-incarnate Jesus. The heelcatcher became the God wrestler (i.e., Israel). And, in the end, Jacob was blessed for being Jacob, not Esau or anyone else.

Jacob emerged from his struggle with a limp. God had to cripple him to bless him. Only in weakness did Jacob learn to hold onto God alone. The man who had grasped at everything to feel adequate finally learned to grasp only on God.

I love the story of Jacob. I see myself in so many aspects of his life. And I take comfort in the fact that if God can love and change a person like Jacob then He can love and change anyone, especially me.

11 Responses to Why Heelcatcher?

  1. Michael Pruett says:

    It is interesting to note that God refers to himself throughout the Bible as “the God of Jacob”. It never ceases to amaze me at Jesus’ willingness to associate with the underbelly of society, those on his VIP list at his Wedding Supper. Blessings!

  2. Javan says:


  3. Greg says:

    Uplifting! Encouraging! I love how God loves! I want to be more like Him Everyday!

  4. Gary says:

    There is quite a story of life to be learned from the story of  one Jacob.The story for me is that if we just hold out and hold on to God and His word, great thing will come even if it leaves us with a slight handicapp we can still do the work for Kingdom building. Praise God!

  5. Jackline says:

    Wow, i have been struggling for my entire life. I want to surrender to GOD. I don't want a situation where God cripples me for me to grasp to Him. 

    Thank you for this

  6. Builder of job, David, Abraham and Jacob says:

    I have been crippled. I rebelled from religion because I was rejected for not confirming to things I didn't feel was right in my heart. Then I rebelled from man's law because I was always just shy of "qualifying" for aid in my health. All I have left is to cling to God and his mercy. If anyone reads this, please remember me in prayer just once. Odds are I'll need it no matter how much time has passed since this post.


    Fight the GOOD fight

  7. John says:

    Being submissive to Gods will is clear here. If its not his will, we can easily miss out on blessing that may further the kingdom for not our glory but his. The lord gives us strengths by faith in our weakness so that he is gloified. Praise God for my weaknesses.

  8. Dawn Damon says:

    Hey, I found your article while doing a search on google. Loving what you had to say, Itried to find who the author was, and after searching your tabs, I cannot find your name anywhere. Is it your desire to be annonymous? 

  9. admin says:

    Not necessarily. I guess I didn’t realize that my name (Steve Foster) wasn’t anywhere on the blog. I am the pastor at Community Bible Church in Baton Rouge, LA. Thanks for asking…and I am glad that the article encouraged you!

  10. I found this while doing bible study during my alone time with God, and it is a very well written and easy to understand. Great read. God bless you Mr Foster

  11. admin says:

    Thanks, Amy! I am so glad that it was helpful to your Bible study. If you are interested in the life of Jacob then you may find my book on Jacob’s life to be beneficial. Jacob’s life has been a huge encouragement to my own life and reminded me of God’s abundant grace.

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