In Genesis 17 when Abraham was 90 years of age God appears to him and tells him in verse 5 that his name is no longer Abram - hitherto Abraham had been called Abram - God appears to him and tells him that his name is no longer Abram but Abraham. The next time Abraham is mentioned is four verses later - and by his new name, a name that continues thereafter throughout the rest of the Scriptures.

Coming to his Abraham's grandson Jacob, the man who would become the direct ancestor of the twelve tribes of Israel had an encounter with an angel of God on his way back from having been with Laban, his uncle and the father of his two wives. There and then one event led to another and the angel told Jacob that he would no longer be called by his now previous name but by the name "Israel".

Again Jacob is met this time by God in Genesis 35:9 when he is on his way out of out of Padanaram, and is blessed by Him. In the next verse God changes his name to Israel. The next time Jacob is mentioned is four verses later, as with Abraham. But unlike with Abraham, Jacob is mentioned by his previous name, a name that continues in far greater frequency of use than his new new.

What do you think that is - to the extent that he is alternatively called Jacob and Israel in a single verse?


5 Answers 5


Both names in a single verse.

Gen 46:2 God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”

You have asked a great question. My best guess is that he continued to be referred to as Jacob in order to help distinguish between the man and the nation.

Gen 34:7 Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.


There seem to be several reasons for using both names together, but I think the following may be most significant. The two names 'Israel' and 'Jacob' are often found together to discriminate between the descendants of Joseph's two son's Ephraim and Manasseh, both of which were adopted by and given the name Israel, to be as his own sons and inheritors (Genesis 48); and all other descendants of the twelve sons born to Jacob, excluding those descending from Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh.


I liked and agree with above answer which makes a lot of sense. Jacob name preferred to as man and the children of Israel as the nation. I also, believe that Jacob name was use to address the sinful nature/flesh and possibly the uncircumcised people who left out of Egypt with Jacob descendants. Changing Jacob name to Israel was the beginning of the spiritual covenant of Gods' promises with Jacob, that He also made with his Grandfather Abraham.
By God using the name Israel it kept everyone in the remembrance of the covenant promise.(this is just a thought).


I agree with Lionsden's assessment of this question, which is a great question, indeed. It's interesting, too, that if you look at verse 4 of Chapter 35, it says:

And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

So, Jacob's wives' idols were essentially buried under an oak in Shechem. Of course, reading into this part of it is interesting for many reasons, particularly since we know that God is a 'jealous God', and idols weren't permitted whatsoever. In the context of the narrative, there needed to be a process of sanctification to complete the vows, so Jacob's family had to utterly eliminate every single idol that there was ("strange gods"). God wants to be Number One on a List of One, and loyalty was apparently the issue here, of course. The purge of all of the idols and washing themselves and whatnot was apparently educational for Israel, because they needed such devotion when they entered the Land of Promise in Joshua 5.

With that said, obviously the name-change from 'Jacob' to 'Israel' was a confirmation of proof of what God promised in Bethel and the blessings that would forthcome.

I, too, think that it is because of the differentiating between 'the man' and 'the nation', as the first commentator pointed out.

Very interesting to consider, though, because I'd never noticed this before!


According to the documentary hypothesis, the Elohist (or simply E) is one of four source documents underlying the Torah,[4] together with the Jahwist (or Yahwist), the Deuteronomist and the Priestly source. The Elohist is so named because of its pervasive use of the word Elohim to refer to the Israelite god. [See Wikipedia]

When searching for an answer to the OP's question, I most certainly never thought there could be a tale such as follows. The article is much longer.


Jacob Is Renamed Israel (Twice): Why Does the Name Jacob Remain? - Dr.Tzemah Yoreh


Geographic Considerations E is unique among the Pentateuchal sources, having been composed in the Northern Kingdom, which was called Israel. J, in contrast, was composed in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, as was P and most of the Bible. [13] For E, Jacob/Israel is the most important patriarch. But for J, Abraham, the patriarch of the south, was the most important ancestor.

In E, Abraham sacrifices his son Isaac when the latter was a child, ending the line of Abraham; Jacob in E is not related to Abraham.[14] J resurrects Isaac and makes him Jacob’s father, thus making Abraham the progenitor of Jacob. Abraham is depicted much more positively by J than Jacob, and is given precedent by being his ancestor.

When the E document was brought to “southern Israel” (i.e., Judah), by scribes fleeing the North after the Assyrian conquest, Judean authors sought to make E’s account of Israel’s origins more relevant to their readers and thus added Judah and Judean themes everywhere they could. This process began with J, the first southern supplementer, but since all later sources were southern, this pattern persisted among later authors as well.[15] In the case of Jacob vs. Israel, perhaps J wished to de-emphasize the significance of this third patriarch, after whom the entire nation, “Israel” was named.

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