Written by Don West
As previously submitted, Israel is important because it has a special relationship with God; a relationship created by God, and Him alone, pursuant to His sovereign will. And as part of that sovereign will, God would use this special and chosen nation to provide the world with His Written Word, the Bible (remember: of the sixty-six books of the Bible, a minimum of sixty-four of them are Jewish authored); but even more importantly and critically, God would use Israel to provide the world with the ultimate of all gifts, the Living Word: the Savior, Jesus, who is the Christ. As we explore and study this relationship between God and His people, Israel, we should start with a basic, but largely unknown, piece of information that may surprise you.
I had for years a vague awareness that God had numerous names, but being generally disinterested, I, naturally, remained generally ignorant of those names until I was stunned to learn approximately two years ago that Israel bears the name of God in its own name. One of the names of God in the early history of the Hebrew people was “EL” meaning The Strong One; but “EL” was also used in compound forms to further identify the various aspects and characteristics of Israel’s God. And thus, we also have:
1. EL ELOHE YISRAEL God, the God of Israel (Gen. 33:18-20)
2. EL ELYON God, The God Most High
3. ELOHIM God, The All-Powerful One (plural of EL)
4. EL OLAM The Eternal God, The Everlasting God
5. EL ROI The God Who Sees me
6. EL SHADDAI The All-Sufficient One, God Almighty
7. IMMANUEL God With Us
8. BETHEL* House of God
*Names of God, Rose Publishing, 2003, 2005 RW Research, Inc. 4733 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503
Interestingly, but now maybe not so surprisingly, numerous of God’s prophets also bore God’s name in their own: (emphasis mine)
1. ELisha God Is Salvation
2. DaniEL God Is My Judge
3. EzekiEL God Strengthens
4. JoEL The Lord Is God
5. ELijah God Is YAH, the Lord
6. OthniEL Lion of God
7. SamuEL Heard of God
With this significant item of information in mind, let us turn to the history of Israel to determine how and why it bears the name of God. Most of you are well aware that after God chooses Abraham, that Abraham will have a son named Isaac; later Isaac will have a son named Jacob. Eventually, Jacob will have a metaphysical encounter with God, and during that encounter God will advise Jacob that He is changing his name to Israel. That event, approximately 3900 years ago, is set out in Genesis 32:24-32, wherein God says, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”
Thus, in addition to all of the above cited names bearing the name of God, we have the God initiated word ISRA-EL meaning, he who struggles, or strives, or wrestles with God. Unfortunately, Israel continues to live up to its name to this day, but God in His renaming of Jacob to Israel indicates, I believe, that ultimately Israel will, as stated, prevail and be His supreme standard for all the nations that God intended Israel to be from its beginning.
While the account of Jacob’s name change at Bethel in Genesis 32 leaves some question as to just who is doing the name change (God or a Man or an Angel), Genesis 35:9-11, states clearly that the one altering Jacob’s name is, indeed, God: “And God said to him, `your name is Jacob: your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name`. So He (God) called his name Israel.”
But there are several other scriptures that also identify the one effecting the name change as being God that seem to clarify the issue thoroughly and finally. Keep in mind, as you read these, that while the writer of the scripture may be speaking primarily about something else, he nonetheless makes the claim that it was God who changed Jacob’s name to Israel:
1. “ And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, ` Israel shall be your name.`” 1 Kings 18:31
2. “ To this day they (Israel) continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel.” 2 Kings 17:34
3. “ The Lord also brings a charge against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, according to his deeds He (God) will recompense him. He (Jacob) took his brother (Esau) by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he (Jacob/Israel) struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed… He (Jacob) found Him (God) in Bethel and there He (God) spoke to us (Israel). That is, the Lord God of Hosts…” Hosea 12:2-5
4. “I am the Lord, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah 43:15
*All scripture is from the New King James Version
One final thought in closing. Just as a father, not infrequently, gives a son his name in pride and love at birth, so within these scriptures there is the appearance, at least, that God has chosen to do the same with IsraEl (emphasis mine).
…Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My first born. ‘ ” Exodus 4:22. And:
“For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim (another name for Israel, as I understand it) is My firstborn.” Jeremiah 31:9.
(adapted from The Boone County Spotlight; used with permission)
Don West is a new columnist and speaker for Prophecy Matters. His passion for Israel and prophecy is instantly contagious. He is a professor at North Arkansas College in Harrison Arkansas. Dr. West holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas.