Name Game: Jacob to Israel

Genesis 32:24-28 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 

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Name changes in the Bible are not uncommon. Here are some examples. God changed Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17:15), and Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9).

The verses above are how the man named Jacob had his name changed to Israel. The nation Israel would come from this man.

In the Hebrew (Strong’s Concordance), Jacob means “heel holder” or “supplanter”. It can also mean he cheats or deceives. Jacob was given this name because of the events at his birth. Genesis 25:26a Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob…This name accurately describes Jacob. He cheated and deceived his brother Esau for his inheritance. The deceiver met his match in his future father in law, Laban (Genesis 29-31).

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. In the Hebrew (Strong’s Concordance), Israel means “God prevails”. Per Holman’s Bible Dictionary, Israel means God strives, God rules, God heals, or he strives against God.

The verse above has proven to be prophetic for nation Israel. The country struggled against Egypt and was held captive for 400 years. God delivered His people out of slavery and bondage in the Book of Exodus.

God’s chosen people were taken captive by Tiglath-Pileser and the Assyrian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonians and plundered Jerusalem. Those who survived were taken back to Babylon. Israel was under Persian rule after they conquered Babylon.

They were dispersed throughout the world in the first century at the hands of the Roman Empire. They survived the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400’s. Hitler attempted to exterminate the Jewish people during the middle of the 20th century in World War II.

They were reborn as a country in a day in 1948. The rebirth of Israel was prophesied in Isaiah 66:8-9 “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God.

Along the way, God has healed and preserved His chosen people. And they have wrestled with Him.

God prevails. Amos 9:15 I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.

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