How Jacob Became Israel? (hebrew Insight)

How Jacob became Israel?

When 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.

(To watch this video on YouTube click HERE)

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

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  1. Jeanne

    Thank you for sending your teachings to my inbox. I hope to learn more with each video you send. Shalom.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      It’s a pleasure. Shalom!

  2. Mirella

    This is my motivation to learn more of this unique language also to interpret it, knowing about the land, the people and the truth, its brings me closer to the truth of YHWH, Thank you Eli….Mirella

  3. Kat

    I am confused whether gentiles belong to the Spiritual Israel or if in belonging to the Kingdom of God we become one of many nations joining the Kingdom. It doesn’t make sense to me that Paul would tell gentiles to practice something different then what he practiced. I have learned to see myself as becoming a part of Spiritual Israel, but am I reading something into the word Israel that doesn’t belong 🙂

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Kat, there is absolutely nothing wrong with some people being Israel (sons of Jacob) relating to God in one “prescribed” way and others being the children of Abraham, children of promise (extended family) relating to God through a different set of expectations. I am really not in a position to get into very practical matters of identity and theology here on the blog. If this topic interests you deeply I recommend signing up for Jewish Background of the New Testament Course and then for the New course that will deal with these matters coming out later in Spring. Sorry, blog is not the best format for complicated discussion like that.

      1. Kat

        I am open to the suggestion of taking a course. Please email me info on any non-credit classes. I am a servant of Christ, but will not be entering into formal/traditional ministry.

          1. Kat

            Thank you. I have been looking at time slots and I will have a great one available in the not to distant future. I have made this a goal. I so appreciate the time and effort you put into your work. All I know is I read Exodus 19:8 as a little girl and felt welcomed by a people I have grown to love and understand. I want to give back to them.

  4. José Hélder Saraiva Bacurau

    Shalom Dr Elí !
    Acredito que o encontro do Anjo do SENHOR com o patriarca Jacó, foi necessário pois Jacó conseguiu a benção de seu pai Isaque, passando-se por Esaú, na verdade ele conseguiu uma benção de forma errada; Isaque lhe preguntou quem é você? e Jacó respondeu eu sou Esaú teu filho. Não foi sem motivo que antes de abençoar Jacó o Anjo fez a mesma pergunta que Isaque havia feito anos atrás.
    Ao responder Jacó, ele estava confessando seu pecado,só então ele recebe a benção e se torna Israel,
    D-US lutou com Jacó para que ele confessa-se seu pecado(OSEIAS 12.2-5),não se consegue a benção do SENHOR por meios humanos,mas através da confissão ,ao tocar-lhe o SENHOR ,o fez depende .

  5. Edward Siders

    Bro. Eli now i am stuck . In 35:11 says he the angel or the man was the creator himself . Can you explain this to me ? reff. 32:29 —– 32:24——–35:15 ——- I understand the the spirit of GOD can and does speak to us if we listen but were did he get his body from ? sincere

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Edward, you may find these lecture series helpful (first in the list):

      1. Edward Siders

        Thanks brother WOW what a good tip . IT opened up half of the Bible for me . Thanks again

  6. Edward Siders

    If a angel is a spirit and has no body . i mean flesh , bone ,0r blood how could Jacob wrestle with him . sounds like there could be another interpetation .

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Edward, thank you for your comment. In the Bible, spirits are able to materialize, so I do not see a problem with this.

      1. eduardosiders

        A spirit cant be seen or even touched . IF you see something in the form of a man . IT is a man . and you can see him even touch him. Same way with a dog or anything else. NOW it is true that a spirit has a spiritual body. on the outher side of your mirror is the best way to see a body . even if you reach out to touch him you cant touch him . IN your mirror is a reflection of you your body. even the scriptures tell us this . and your reflection is what your spirit looks like .same as our fleshly body looks like . one is flesh , the outher is spirit . AND because HE our GOD and SALVOUR lives in us we are the same likeness or same emage . ONE body with the same spirit which gives us life. looks like you , and this my body his body kooks like me . and we both are in the emage of GOD because we are GOD

  7. Noel Deane

    When Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord (Jesus) from the picture shown it would be more difficult for Jacob to wrestle than to wrestle with a man.

  8. Enid van Duren

    Oh I am impress by your clear explanation. Thank you so much. for me it is very very touching and inspirational. Shalom

  9. Ken

    Thanks for bring out the nuances of Hebrew language and culture that the Biblical translators did not put in the ‘English’ versions. I am wondering if you could demonstrate/explain how the ‘related’ are in fact related.


  10. Hannington

    The video was very touching and inspirational from Jacob to Yisrael. Toda Roba. The vision orad of Lisrot- Strugal and Influence

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you my friend.