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Two patriarchs have their named changed. Abram becomes Abraham and Jacob becomes Israel:

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. (Genesis 17:5 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. (Genesis 32:28 KJV)

And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. (Genesis 35:10 KJV)

After his name is changed Abram is always called Abraham. Despite two statements that Jacob shall be called Israel, he continues to be called Jacob and sometimes by both names in the same context:

And God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I. (Genesis 46:2 KJV)

Sometimes the names of the patriarchs are used to identify "their" God:

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob...” (Exodus 3:6 KJV)

Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me... (Exodus 3:16 KJV)

Since the LORD is speaking to Moses after the death of Jacob/Israel, one would expect Him to acknowledge Jacob by his changed name. Yet He calls the man Jacob. In doing so He establishes a continuity with the patriarchs which at the same time is form of self-identification. It is this phrase which is carried on almost exclusively through the Old and New Testaments.

However, there are 3 occasions when Israel replaces Jacob:

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. (1 Kings 18:36 KJV)

O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee (1 Chronicles 29:18 KJV)

So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. (2 Chronicles 30:6 KJV)

Each of these 3 come at significant moments. In particular, the first time the phrase is used in by Elijah during the testing of the prophets of Ba'al.

What is the significance to saying the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel rather than the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob?

  • The only answer I can give you would be a more sermon-like interpretation. Good luck on your search! Very keen observation! – RJ Navarrete Jul 25 '16 at 22:08
  • @Revelation Lad The first case is an emblem; 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. Whereas the second is a reminder from a zealous king of Judah to the rebels in the apostate north about which god is the god of Israel as a people. – Witness Aug 12 '16 at 23:03
  • Possible duplicate: Jacob's Name is Israel – Frank Luke May 23 '17 at 19:25
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    @FrankLuke I have edited the question to remove the duplicate nature. – Revelation Lad May 23 '17 at 20:32
  • The words "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" are delivered by the mouth of God, whereas "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel" are delivered by the mouth of Elijah, David, and Hezekiah. – enegue May 25 '17 at 23:06
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The phrase "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob", or "the God of Abraham Isaac and Israel" has many deep meanings. However, quite simply put, it denotes the historical relationship between the called people from a single man to a nation or a corporate group of people who have been transformed by their experience of God.

  • Abraham (denotes the father of faith) - He represents the one who is called out and initiates the exodus from the world into a promised land by faith. The God of Abraham is the experience of God who calls out of the world by infusing faith into the called one to follow Him.

  • Isaac - represents the son who receives the blessings from all that the Father (Abraham) has attained. God of Isaac is the God who meets His Peoples every need and rest in His victory. Up to this point, we see God still dealing with indidviduals, although His ultimate goal when He first spoke to Abraham is a Kingdom of peoples who are mature and transformed by the Holy Spirit beyond earthly blessings (stars in the heavens). So then comes Jacob:

  • When the Bible talks about "Jacob" it refers to the untransformed man "Jacob", who as an individual, is scheming to get the blessings, power and riches. But God's intention is the full transformation into one called out of earthly trappings; and also a nation as He promised Abraham. But God needs a fully mature man for this and He has His heart set on Jacob as one of Abrahams descendants. Hence for almost 21 years Jacob is touched, dealt with until ceases to fight and scheme. Then He is finally qualified and blessed to become Israel.

  • Here, Israel first refers to the fact that Jacob as a man has now become a full mature prince of God to rule and reign over all Gods chosen people. However, also more important in Jacob God finally has a man out of whom issues this corporate people, and kingdom which is the corporate Israel; having power to reign with God and over men (Genesis 32:28).

  • Hence the difference between Jacob and Israel is kind of similar to Saul and Paul or Peter and Cephas. Saul becomes Paul a man used to gain more poeple for God and Peter is transformed to stone as the foundation of the Church. Same people at different periods with a new purpose after being "transformed for Gods purpose.
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When it comes to names in the bible we must always be a little suspicious of the text. The Hebrew people most likely learned the practice of gematria from the Mesopotamians[1], and Mandean style calculations with names are extremely common in the Tanakh.

With Paleohebrew gematria[2], the name of Abraham = 248 and the phrase 'of many nations have I made thee' in Genesis 17:5 also = 248.

The sum of the names of Abraham, Isaac and Israel = 700. This sum is first seen in Genesis 1:1

1 בראשית 220 ברא 203 אלהים 86 את השמים 98 ואת הארץ 296׃

220 In the Beginning + 86 Elohim + 98 Heavens + 296 Earth = 700.

The word for 'days' יָמִ֖ים = 100 so 7 x 100 = the Seven Days of Creation, therefore when the scribe refers to the God of 'Abraham, Isaac and Israel' he is specifically revering the God of Creation by his numerical art.

Likewise to the Mandean justification of the name of Abraham, we see the same occurring in Genesis 32:28 for the name of Israel (244):

שָׂרִ֧יתָ You have struggled = 217

אֱלֹהִ֛ים God = 86

אֲנָשִׁ֖ים Men = 104

(217 - 86) + (217 - 104) = 244.

Essentially then, the scribe is referencing different names in order to get the right numerical value for the calculations he is setting out.


[1] Stephen J. Lieberman: 'A Mesopotamian Background for the So-Called Aggadic 'Measures' of Biblical Hermeneutics?' https://www.jstor.org/stable/23508256

[2] Please see my profile for more information on Paleohebrew gematria.

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