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)

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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. David Fung

    Just like the Chinese language, Hebrew is a pictorial language. The same character can imply multiple meanings. The names Yakov and Israel described the two stages of Jacob’s life. The first stage was his struggle with his clan. Here, the one side of Jacob’s character, i.e. the deceiver, can be seen. The second stage was his transformation to being God’s ally. His struggle with God means an intimate relationship with God. Without struggling with God, Jacob would not be able to resolve the guilt that he usurped his brother’s birthright by cheating on his own father Isaac. Jacob needed God’s assurance that he was blessed by God Himself to be the rightful heir not only to Isaac but also Abraham. By being the rightful heir also signified that Jacob’s descendants will receive the blessings that God gave to his father and his grandfather.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thank you, David. If it ever picks your interest read NOT IN GOD’S NAME. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks does incredible job at dealing with Jacob and Esau.

  2. jane z. mazzola

    I enjoy learning @ the Biblical names because of the multi layers of meaning. Your short clips of Jacob, the rainbow, & others have such delightful background music for further learning. I can “hear” & “see” it all again in my mind’s eye…2x blest. Thank you.
    Jane M

  3. elena

    I heard that Israel could be read as …zar EL which makes Yakov a Prince of Allmighty. How valid is this assumption?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      not really 🙂

  4. Sihle Makhanya

    You have a deeper meaning of the scripture which is a great thing. May God bless you in Jesus name.

  5. Sihle Makhanya

    I wish to be your learner in class. One day I will come to your home town,I am a South African.

  6. Emmalene Pearson

    Thank you so much for the biblical information I wrote it down in my notebook. It will be very good for bible study great provision.


    Thanks Doctor Eli! I call that; PURE or PLAIN TRUTH. Keep up good works. God bless you.

  8. solitaire

    I was viewing the video on the name of the almighty. It was mentioned that restrictions was placed on the proper pronunciation of the name.Who place this pronouncement?
    When in Exodus 20:2-3 says I am Yahweh your Elohim,who has brought you out of the land of Egypt,out of the house of bondage.You shall have no other Elohim before me.If i was to follow the commandment of man and use other names instead of Yahweh wouldn”t i be placing other Elohim before him?

    Isaiah 42:8 says “I am Yahweh,that is my name;and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to carved images.

    These are all actual quotes from the bible I use called the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition. Yahweh is his name and he would not give his glory to another.He wants hie people to reverence him by calling upon his true name.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      The problem is that Hebrew does not have vowels (originally). No one knows how to correctly pronounce it it. I don’t like it when people call me by my name but pronounce it incorrectly.

  9. Luis

    I would like to share the video in Spanish, you have in spanish?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      No this video is only in English for now :-(.