World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0003978205
Reproduction Date:

Title: Iscah  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Milcah, Haran, Lot (biblical person), Sarah, Jessica
Collection: Hebrew Bible People, Noach (Parsha)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Iscah (Hebrew: יִסְכָּהYiskāh) is the daughter of Haran and niece of Abraham in the Hebrew Bible. The passage in which Iscah is mentioned is extremely brief and obscure. As a result rabbinical scholars developed theories to explain it, typically adopting the claim that Iscah was an alternate name for Sarah (Sarai), the wife of Abraham, particularly that it denoted her role as a prophetess.

The original Hebrew name Yiskāh (יִסְכָּה), means "foresight", or being able to see the potential in the future. The Hebrew root sakhah (ס.כ.ה) means "to see," so the name Yiskah, with the added yod, implies "to see before".[1]

Iscah is also believed to be the source of the name "Jessica", via a character in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice.


  • Biblical text 1
  • Rabbinical interpretation 2
  • Modern views 3
  • Jessica 4
  • References 5

Biblical text

The only reference to Iscah is in a brief passage in the Book of Genesis:

And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife [was] Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
Genesis 11:29 KJV

Rabbinical interpretation

Since Haran is described as the father of both Iscah and Milcah, Rabbinical scholars concluded that Iscah was another name or title for Sarai. This was formulated in the Targum Pseudo-Yonathan. Howard Schwartz explains:

The difficult genealogy of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 11:29 led to confusion as to the identity of Iscah. The resolution found in Targum Pseudo-Yonathan, the Talmud, and other rabbinic sources is that Sarah was Iscah, and that Iscah was a seer. This meaning is derived from the Aramaic root of Iscah, which denotes seeing. This led to the tradition that Sarah was a prophetess as great or greater than Abraham. The implication is that Iscah is a kind of alter ego for Sarah, and that when she turned to her prophetic side, she became Iscah.[2]

Rabbi Isaac commented "Iscah was Sarah, and why was she called Iscah? Because she foresaw the future by divine inspiration." Schwarz describes Iscah as an "extension of Sarah's personality beyond its normal bounds".[3]

Modern views

Historian Savina J. Teubal takes the view that the name of Iscah was probably included in the text of Genesis because Iscah represented an important genealogy:

Of Harran's descendants, Milcah and her sister Iscah are recorded by J, but Lot is not mentioned with them. The inclusion of Iscah must have had some significance that either J or his source chose not to elucidate. Nevertheless a strong tradition must have barred the redactors from omitting Iscah's name, a tradition, presumably, in which a sister had an important function; this tradition is apparent also in Genesis 4:22, in which Naamah, 64 sister of Tubal-Cain, is mentioned only by name. It can be surmised that Naamah and Iscah were originally recorded to categorize the descent group (or other characteristic) of their siblings Tubal-Cain and Milcah. In non- patriarchal terms, Naamah and Tubal-Cain were uterine siblings, as were Milcah and Iscah. It is also possible that Milcah is named before her sister Iscah because she was younger, just as Rachel is named before Leah. Among Harran's descendants, the sequence of Lot's birth is not significant and is not mentioned in the genealogy of J because he was not the uterine sibling of Milcah and Iscah, did not belong to the same descent group as they, and was therefore not considered by Sarah or Abram as heir.[4]


The name "Jessica" comes from a character in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, the daughter of Shylock. Iskah was rendered "Jeska" in English Bibles available in Shakespeare's day.[5]


  1. ^ Strong's 03252. יִסְכָּה Yickah yis-kaw’; from an unused root meaning to watch; observant; Jiskah, sister of Lot:—Iscah.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Howard, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism: Oxford University Press: New York: 2004, p.334
  3. ^ Schwartz, Howard, Reimagining the Bible: The Storytelling of the Rabbis, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, p.36.
  4. ^ Teubal, Savina J., Sarah the Priestess: The First Matriarch of Genesis, Ohio University Press, 1984, p.43
  5. ^ Hanks, P. & Hodges, F. A Dictionary of First Names. (1990). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211651-7.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.