Jacob Becomes “Israel”

In my most recent blog entry, The UNoccupied Land – The Conclusion, I wrote that, “The Word of God is one Word; it speaks of the past, gives us understanding of the present, and gives us revelation of the future. “

When it comes to time, many people focus only on the present, forgetting that what we do today will affect our tomorrow. Then there are those who focus only on the future, and at times so much so, they forget to deal with the day-to-day reality! I believe that in order to truly understand the present and anticipate the future, one needs to not only understand the past but also acknowledge it as the foundation of our faith.

Throughout the past month, I have written about God’s unbroken and endless covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…a covenant of promise, a covenant of blessing, and a covenant that included a Land. One cannot ignore these unbroken promises between God and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If one says these promises are done away with, or that God changed His mind, then I think it is safe to assert that we have no assurance of salvation, nor in the faithfulness of our God.

So far, we studied the Covenant between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; where, then, is Israel in all of this?

The Scriptures tell of two stories, which reveal the origin of the people of Israel. The first one occurs in Genesis 32:23-33, when Jacob is takes his wives, maids, and children in order to cross the ford of Jabbok. It was then that we read the famous story of Jacob wrestling with a man, whom we later learn is God Himself.

“Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. And he took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. And when he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.”

In the verses above, we learn of Jacob’s name change to “Israel”; however it is only later in Genesis 35, when Jacob is at Beth-El (A place called “House of God”) that we see God once again not only affirming Jacob’s name change to Israel, but also the Covenant that He himself made with Abraham and Isaac, which is to continue with Jacob (Israel) and his descendants. It is still a covenant of blessing, which includes a Land:

“Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. “And the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.”” Genesis 35:9-12

My dear brothers and sisters, the Word of God is very clear! It is amazing to me how important this covenant is; otherwise God would not have repeated Himself again and again. Yet many people don’t seem to get it…this covenant can’t be broken since it was God Himself who made it. This covenant can’t be changed because God Himself established it. This covenant is an everlasting one, since God Himself promised it.

In short, if one wants to contradict the above statement, then he or she essentially challenges the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God Almighty. I don’t know about you, but I personally believe in a faithful God, full of forgiveness, justice, and grace.

Shabbat Shalom,









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One Comment on “Jacob Becomes “Israel””

  1. Hello Moran,
    This was a great article to read. I too believe in a faithful God, full of forgiveness, justice, grace and power. One of my favorite sayings is “God is Faithful.”
    A question came up in our bible study, and not having much knowledge of biblical tradition re: name changes, I thought I’d ask.
    The question is, “Did Jacob tell his sons, his name was now Israel?” I’m almost certain there is an established protocol in the bible when this happens. If you could reply before next Sunday, I greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply.

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