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The Origin Of "Israel"

Twenty years earlier, when Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau to take refuge with his uncle Laban (see Blessing The Favorites, Cain and Esau and Why Did Esau Lose The Blessing?), the LORD's angels appeared to Jacob to assure him that he would safely return:

"28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 28:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 28:14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (Genesis 28:12-15 KJV)

When Jacob did safely return (ironically, when Jacob left he had been fleeing from Esau to Laban; now he was fleeing Laban, back to Esau), the angels again met him (see also Jacob's Vow At Bethel):

"32:1 And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 32:2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim." (Genesis 32:1-2 KJV)

"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"

When they had last been in contact, Esau was planning to murder Jacob because Jacob had bested him for the family blessing. Jacob's message to Esau was that he was now wealthy - perhaps in an attempt to assure Esau that he would no longer be a competitor to Esau.


"32:3 And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto The Land of Seir, the country of Edom. 32:4 And he commanded them, saying, Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 32:5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight." (Genesis 32:3-5 KJV)

The response was not what Jacob expected - Esau was coming with four hundred men.

"32:6 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him." (Genesis 32:6 KJV)

Jacob's response was not to take to a defensible position, or even to retreat in some direction other than directly toward Esau, or even to scatter and hide his family as much as he could where they were. Jacob's only "defense" was to divide his family, while leaving them right out in the open, so that they wouldn't be slaughtered all at once if Esau chose to do so.

"32:7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; 32:8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape." (Genesis 32:7-8 KJV)

Jacob was either being very defeatist (until he started to pray to the LORD for help - and even then his prayer shows that he thought that a slaughter could happen), or was counting on the LORD's help all along (it seems unlikely, since he divided his family to prevent a wholesale slaughter). At any rate, the LORD was not going to allow harm to come to him or his family.

"32:9 And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: 32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. 32:11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. 32:12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude." (Genesis 32:9-12 KJV)

Jacob then again did what many would regard as an extremely reckless and irresponsible tactic - he sent his defenseless family straight in the direction of Esau's coming force, while Jacob himself remained safely behind his wives and children. Jacob was counting on appeasing Esau with pity and presents, delivered by his wives and children, before he showed himself i.e. "For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me."

"32:13 And he lodged there that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau his brother; 32:14 Two hundred she goats, and twenty he goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, 32:15 Thirty milch camels with their colts, forty kine, and ten bulls, twenty she asses, and ten foals. 32:16 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove. 32:17 And he commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee? 32:18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau: and, behold, also he is behind us. 32:19 And so commanded he the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying, On this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him. 32:20 And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. 32:21 So went the present over before him: and himself lodged that night in the company." (Genesis 32:13-21 KJV)

Fortunately for Jacob and his family, The LORD was with them. Along with deliverance from Esau's wrath the next day, in that night, at the ford of The Jabbok River, occurred the defining moment of Jacob's life - the LORD changed his name to "Israel." His twelve sons would each become the progenitors of one of the twelve tribes of Israel e.g. from Levi came the Levites, from Judah came the Jews, from Benjamin came the Benjamites etc. Jacob and his family were safe from whatever Esau would try to do.


"32:22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. 32:23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 32:25 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. 32:26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh.

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

32:27 And he said unto him, What is thy name?

And he said, Jacob.

32:28 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.

32:29 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.

32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

32:31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. 32:32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank." (Genesis 32:22-32 KJV)

Fact Finder: After being renamed as "Israel" by the LORD, Jacob truthfully said "I have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:20 KJV). Centuries later, Jesus Christ plainly said that He was the only human that has ever seen The Father i.e. "6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father" (John 6:46 KJV). So Who was it that Jacob saw? Who was it that renamed Jacob as Israel? How do we know that "the LORD God" was Jesus Christ?
See 'The God Of The Old Testament' and 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'; also Christ The Creator

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