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Penuel, or Peniel, was located just north of the Jabbok river which flows into the Jordan River from the east (see the map below). The name means face of God, from the Hebrew words (pronounced) paw-nah which means to face, and ale, a Name of God (see El). The name was given to the place by Jacob because that is where he "wrestled with God" on the night that God changed Jacob's name to Israel. The "el" in Israel has the same meaning as the "el" in Penuel.

"For I have seen God face to face"

The Jordan River While making his return journey home from his very profitable and productive years spent with his uncle Laban (see Jacob and Laban), Jacob was the last to cross the ford there. During that night, while alone, he experienced one of the most curious, and defining, incidents of Bible History.

"And he rose up that night, and took his two wives [i.e. Rachel and Leah], and his two womenservants [i.e. Bilhah and Zilpah], and his eleven sons [Jacob's twelfth son, Benjamin wasn't born yet - see the "Children of Jacob" link in the Fact Finder question below], and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh."

"And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me."

"And he said unto him, What is thy name?"

"And he said, Jacob."

"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."

"And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name."

"And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there."

"And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Genesis 32:22-30 KJV)

Fact Finder: After God changed Jacob's name to Israel, Jacob's physical descendants (see Children of Jacob) became known as the Israelites. What however is the ultimate, and ultimately-intended, meaning of "Israel"?
See Physical and Spiritual Israel

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