Israel (hebrew Insight)

HiResWhen we look at the names of Biblical characters in Hebrew we see the things that cannot be seen in translation. Take for example, the story of Jacob being transformed into Israel.

Jacob’s name in Hebrew (יַעֲקב YAKoV) was connected with the word for “heel” (עָקֵב AKeV) . You remember that when baby Esau first came out, the midwife could not believe her eyes: his sibling brother was holding Esau by his heel not willing to let him go! Seeing their child grasping his brother by the heel Rebecca and Isaac called him – Yakov (Jacob).

Jacob’s birth defined his life until another event of even greater significance – his personal encounter with a very special messenger. He is known in the Bible as the Angel of the LORD (Gen.32).

Just like at his birth, now too Jacob held on rather hard to someone! This time not to his older brother, but to the Angel of the LORD himself. Jacob demanded that he would finally be granted something that he was not given as a child – the mighty blessing he so greatly valued and passionately desired. Seeing Jacob’s persistence and utmost commitment, the Angel of the LORD granted Jacob his request by blessings him.

To show that there has been a real change in Jacob’s life. The Angel of the LORD gave Jacob a completely new name – יִשְׂרָאֵל  Yisra’el  (Israel). They key to understanding this is hidden in this names original Hebrew meaning. The Word יִשְׂרָאֵל  yiSRaEL is related to the verb לִשְׂרות Lisrot which in Biblical Hebrew means to struggle, to strive, to exercise influence, in this context, with God Himself! (Gen.32:30) So important was this event in world history that the nation descending from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was named after this particular encounter. These decedents will be forever known as the People of Israel, the People that Struggle with God.

© Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg. All rights reserved.

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  1. U. Haller

    There is an opinion too that the word ישראל is not related to the verb שרה but to שרר (“to rule, be strong, have authority over”), thereby making the name mean “God rules” or “God judges”, cf Rashi: כי אם בשררה “but rather, through authority”.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, liSHROR is of course a possibility, but it has an extra Resh in the root, so I think even though Rashi may have thought that it is less likely that that is so.

  2. Edelmiro Zuniga

    I like to add alittle bit off the subject but yet gives confirmation to the authority of a messenger(Angel of the Lord,Michael the archangel,ect.ect, in Jude 1:9 Michael was sent by God himself to fetch the body of Moses, but Satan had a problem with that but Michael would accomplish his mission because of the authority granted him by God himself.Now as far as rebuking Satan that authority he didn’t have that’s why he(Michael) told Satan the “Lord rebuke you”it’s clear to me that the messengers have specific missions once those missions r fulfilled their given authority is finished until the next assignment.

  3. Edelmiro Zuniga

    Yes Jacob was daring but I believe that contrary to what one mentioned earlier in a posted comment is wrong about that the Angel of the Lord didn’t have the authority to grant what he spoke forth to Jacob and that his name would be changed later.Whoever ever God seems as his messenger has all the authority to grant forth what God has already empowered the messenger to do otherwise why would Good have sent the message in the first place? Another thing I like to add we as believers in YeShua(Jesus)r in the same struggle with God as Jacob because r spirit is apart of who God is and r struggle with God is to overcome r freshly desires which r contrary to everything God is and who he would have us to be which is everything he is.I myself know that God would have all to be saved but not all r saved and in the struggle without a struggle there is no change, God bless u brother good stuff your posting 🙂

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      any one wants to respond to this? (thanks Edelmiro for sharing your feedback with us) Dr. Eli

  4. Linda Fentner

    If we look deeper into this wrestle of Yakov’s we might say “he was actually wrestling with himself…. He had much guilt laid upon him with many struggles to overcome. And with the meeting of his brother, who wanted to kill him at one time, weighed heavy on his heart. Now if we think about it ‘All humanity’ struggles from time to time and may I suggest that struggle could be with G-d also? We may see G-d in those struggles and when we do it can be a turning point in our life; change of attitude towards G-d, family and nieghbor; our decisions of career, and vocation; the religion we decide to follow; and a numorous of life decisions. We must look deep and wide to see G-d’s truths unvail before our eyes. Baruch atah, Adonai, shomeir amo Yisrael laad.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Linda, very insightful comment. Thank you for sharing it with us. Dr. Eli

  5. Geraldo Severiano

    Hello, Dr. Eli, I am a seminarian and I confess that I have found difficulty in matters of Hebrew, unfortunately this shameful period’m with notes and dont know what to do about the learning hebreo. Dr surely know any material that could assist me. no longer required.

    Ola Dr Eli, sou seminarista e confesso que tenho encontrado muita dificuldade na materia de Hebraico,infelizmente este periodo estou com notas vergonhosas e nao sei o que fazer quanto ao aprender hebraico.o Dr certamente conhece algum material que poderia me auxiliar. sem mais obrigado.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      One of the best ways I know to study Hebrew is to enroll into classes with EteacherBiblical/Hebrew University of Jerusalem (online).

  6. marinete

    Dr. Eli, muito interessante o assunto sobre a mudança de nome, registrado na torá, isso a gente vê que aconteceu com abrão com sara e outros e eu percebo que todas essas pessoas deus tem uma afinidade maior e escolhe sempre para desempenhar uma missão. ou para firmar um pacto.

  7. Mhel

    Dear Dr. Eli,
    Thank you for your insightful articles which you are posting here. I hope one day you would also be writing about the Well Episode of John. I just wonder how a woman of such stature could be given importance by the author or the Johannine community. Thank you again.

  8. gustavo vargas angel

    Dear Dr.: I have read carefully your comment on Yakov, which is totally in context with the transltions I have in my differets Bibles, including KJV, but I see you are some short in the quotation, because, beside the blessing granted by the Angel, He hurt Yakov in his right leg, reason why Jews does not eat that part of the sacrifice lamb. I hope be right. Best for you.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, anyone reading Gen.32 can note this. I chose to concentrate one aspect of the story. The name change. But yet hurting Yakov in the process is also important. Let us keep on thinking together. Dr. Eli

  9. U. Haller

    Even if the Angel of HaShem gave Jacob a completely new name (Gen 32,28) he did NOT have the authority to rename Jacob, nor was this name-change to take effect immediately. The angel merely revealed to Jacob that HaShem would do later (cf Gen 35,10).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It is possible to see it this way (Gen.35), but I think you are not correct by saying that the Messenger of the Lord did not have authority to do. I encourage you to research better all instances of the “Angel” of the Lord in Tanach. I think you will find that THIS particular Messenger (angel and messenger are the same words in Hebrew) has far more authority that all others do. For example he has authority to speak in FIRST PERSON about God and forgive sins. This is very big, if you think about it. So, changing the name of Jacob to Israel is as we say is not out of character. Dr. Eli

      1. U. Haller

        Dear Dr. Eli
        I just found this opinion concerning THIS particular messenger: “It was NOT, as Mizrachi points out, the angel who was now renaming Jacob; nor was this name-change to be effective immediately, for the angel did not say “no longer shall your name be called Jacob. The angel was revealing to Jacob what G’d Himself would do later. Jacob would later be regarded as Israel – which would be interpreted as tacit acknowledgment of his superiority and his legittmate right to his father’s blessing (from: Bereshis – A new translation with Commentary anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources, transl. Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz/Rabbi Nosson Scherman, p 1441. And Rashi continues: It shall no longer be said that the blessings came to you through trickery (עָקְבָה) and deceit, but with nobility and openness, and ultimately, the Holy One, blessed be He, will reveal Himself to you in Beth-el and change your name, and there He will bless you, and I will be there.“
        Blessings Urs

      2. Paulo do Carmo Mafra Blanco

        É um absurdo vocês ficarem com essas lorotas !
        Peniel define bem QUEM É O “ANJO-de-ELOHIM” : É JEOVAH-ELOHIM !

        Ouve ó Israel !!!!

        É CRISTO !

    2. Paulo do Carmo Mafra Blanco

      The Agel of HaShem or The Angel of GOD isn´t HIMSELF ?
      There is ONLY ONE THAT CAN !
      – Change death in living forever, rising his sons or transforming those that stay alive,
      at THAT MOMENT
      – Change names forever
      – Santify earth ( appearing to Moses and Yoshua )

      THE CHRIST ! there widh Adam, and here widh us: JESUS

      Time is comming !

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Paulo, thanks for your comment. I don’t think that Angel of the Lord is best translation. Messenger of the LORD is better I think. As I already mentioned in Hebrew it is one and the same word. 🙂

        1. Paulo do Carmo Mafra Blanco

          LORD JESUS my GOD ,
          It is a little dificult to explain in english, but if do YOU go with me FATHER …

          Doc !
          Was him only a simple “messenger” Jacob could not “adore” HIM .

          There is only one MESSENGER or ANGEL or MESSIAH that can sanctify HIS CREATION !

          The messenger to Moses, that said to his “substitute” that will BE THE SAME with him !
          And stoped the Jordan River !!! AleluYH !!! He lives !
          The messenger to Abraham !


          1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Paulo, please, read more carefully what I write 🙂 I do not think that this MESSENGER is simple messenger. (John 1:1)

  10. Dan Kroger, OFM

    A great post Dr. Eli. And kudos to the cartoonist !

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you, Dr. Kroger! Blessings, Eli

  11. Paulo Mendes Glória

    Dr. Eli,
    Congratulations about explanations on meanings of names.

  12. Bill Martinez

    Hi Dr. Eli:

    I believe that the scripture states about Jacob and his new name Israel:

    Gen 32:28(KJV)

    And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

    Jesus died between two thieves, Jacob who would be born again and become Israel, and Esau who sold his birthrite for an occasion to the flesh, for bread, and pottage of lentiles..

    Love in Christ,

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      The KJV translation in this case is interesting and it is possible to translate it this way, though I think other translations are closer to the Hebrew by saying that “for you struggled with”.

  13. RamonAntonio

    Very iluminating comment. Specially the depiction of “struggle” deriving from the name itself given by the Angel of the Lord to Jacob.
    Yesterday’s Gospel reading recalled when Jesus spoke of the disparaged judge who didn’t fear God nor people but was obligued to make justice to the widow who “struggled” on a daily basis with him asking his favorable judgement against her adversary. The judge, in the end, conveyed to the widow for fear that she may attack her based on her condition of having no other recourse.
    As you see, the strugle is indeed part of dealing with the judge and with God as Jesus himself says in this parabole. However Jesus clarifies that God, who is Merciful and Good beyond comprehension will attend the one who claims always without need to strugle because mainly now we have the direct intercesor who is Jesus Himself.
    And all of this started with a new name for a people who dare to struggle with God.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Ramon, welcome back! Good to have you contributing again! Eli

    2. Paula Maybery

      Dear Doc. Eli
      Jacob saw the face of God that must have been a most powerful/fearsome time. Yet he was so determined, that he found courage and wrestled with him, and like the woman and the judge his persistence paid off.
      Jacob although he was 2nd born…. was first born to God, born in the spirit, and Esau although he was 1st born…was born in the flesh.
      Jacob/Israel ..good seed of spirit and Esau bad seed of flesh. This is my understanding…
      blessings to all

      1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

        Though all of this of courses needs to be nuanced a bit, but generally I think that is true. Blessings, Dr. Eli