What Does “Israel” Mean?

Everything God does has purpose, and names in Hebrew always mean something. So, have you ever thought about the name “Israel?” To be sure, God was very intentional when He chose that name!

There are slightly different interpretations of the etymology of the name “Israel,” but all provide a different insight. One thing is crystal clear: “el” is the Hebrew word for God. So, “Israel” is interpreted as “receptacle of God,” “struggle with God,” or “fighting with God,” all of which are true.

A receptacle is a container or a vessel, and indeed, Israel is the receptacle of God. Israel is the chosen land in which God sent His Son to live, die and rise again for our sins. Yes, God is omnipresent, but from our human perspective, God revealed Himself in the land of Israel. It “contained” what we know of our Savior’s earthly presence.

Perhaps most well-known and most poignant is the account of Jacob’s wrestling with God. (Genesis 32:22-32) God promised descendants through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so in establishing the land of Israel, Jacob found himself wrestling with a man who put his hip out of socket. Then the man said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (verse 28) Thus, God renamed him Israel and blessed him.

Thus, “struggle with God” or “fighting with God” are definitely illustrated in this wrestling match.

Israel carries the name of God and is commissioned to bless the world. (Genesis 12:3) As believers, we are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel as a result of that blessing! As such, we are part of the kingdom of priests called to carry forth His name. We are a letter written by God, to be read by others. (2 Corinthians 3:2)

Fulfill your calling and let the world read that letter!

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