The Hebrew word Israel gets translated Struggle and Prince i.e. Gen 32:28. Are there any good scholarly resources that can help clarify which meaning is more accurate?


3 Answers 3


The names Israel is יִשְׂרָאֵל from two other words: from sarah and el, that is:

  • שָׂרָה (sarah) = verb persist, exert oneself, persevere (BDB), and
  • אֵל (el) = god or God, etc, (BDB).

Thus, יִשְׂרָאֵל is "God strives/struggles" or "strives/struggles with God". Of these two the latter appears to be the origin of the proper name as per Gen 32:28 -

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men, and you have prevailed.”

However, the "prince" aspect cannot be ignored as the second part of the word may be derived from the Hebrew "sar" = "prince". As with many Hebrew words and names, multiple levels of meaning are usually intended. For example, note the comments in Gen 35:10 -

And God said to him, “Though your name is Jacob,f you will no longer be called Jacob. Instead, your name will be Israel.g” So God named him Israel. And God told him, “I am God Almighty.h Be fruitful and multiply. A nation—even a company of nations—shall come from you, and kings shall descend from you.

The Cambridge commentary observes the same thing (Gen 32:28) -

  1. Israel] That is, He who striveth with God, or, God striveth. The name is clearly a title of victory, from a root meaning “to persevere.” (a) The meaning seems here to be applied to Jacob as “the perseverer with God.” It is commonly compared with Jerubbaal = “he that striveth with Baal” (Jdg 6:32). The prophet Hosea gives this meaning in Genesis 12:3-4, “in his manhood [or ‘strength’] he had power [or ‘persevered,’ ‘strove’] with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed.” (b) The meaning, on the analogy of similarly formed words, would be “El persevereth”; and would be exactly similar to Seraiah = “Jah perseveres”; Ishmael = “God hears.” Another suggested derivation is from sar = “prince.” See another account of the origin of the name “Israel” given by P in Genesis 35:10.
  • This was super helpful. Thanks! Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 19:11

Genesis 32:28 New International Version

Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome."

you have struggled
שָׂרִ֧יתָ (śā·rî·ṯā)
Verb - Qal - Perfect - second person masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 8280: To persist, exert oneself, persevere

אֱלֹהִ֛ים (’ĕ·lō·hîm)
Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 430: gods -- the supreme God, magistrates, a superlative


NAS Exhaustive Concordance

Word Origin
from sarah and el
"God strives," another name of Jacob and his desc.

Strong's Concordance

sarah: to persist, exert oneself, persevere
Original Word: שָׂרָה
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: sarah
Phonetic Spelling: (saw-raw')
Definition: to persist, exert oneself, persevere

Strong's Concordance

el: God, in pl. gods
Original Word: אֵל
Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
Transliteration: el
Phonetic Spelling: (ale)
Definition: God, in pl. gods

  1. "Yisrael" (יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל) - Meaning :
"Since You-Wrestled With-God" (כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים)
  1. YiSRaEL (יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל) is an Acronym formed from letters taken from its Meaning (כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים) :
  • Ki (כִּֽי) provides the [Yod].

  • Sarit (שָׂרִ֧יתָ) provides the [Shin + Reish].

  • Im-Elohim (עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים) provides the [Alef + Lamed].

As an Acronym, YiSRaEL (יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל) defines itself (כִּֽי־שָׂרִ֧יתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִ֛ים).

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