God renames Jacob to Israel and His chosen race is launched. Jacob has twelve sons and his son’s and grandsons will form the the 12 tribes of Israel that will be followed throughout the remainder of time.
Why it matters
God created the race of people called Israel to receive His laws and ultimately deliver His son. Fulfilling His promise to Abraham and allowing all of us to receive His mercy through His son.
God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.Genesis 35:10
Why it matters to you
To understand God and Jesus we all need to understand the history of Israel. God created Israel to document all of the the events that lead up to the birth and resurrection of Jesus.
Because of complete documentation of the people of Israel, the Bible becomes almost irrefutable. All of the people in the Bible stories actually lived and have offspring who keep their traditions alive.
Jacob (Hebrew meaning one who supplants) had little idea what was before him. He had tricked his brother Esau into giving up his birthright, with the help of his mother. Very sneaky. But just as God had intended Isaac to be the heir to Abraham, Issac’s son Jacob was to continue making the great nation that God has promised.
Jacob left Canaan and went out to seek a wife. He met and wanted to marry Rachel, so he worked for her father, Laban, for seven years to earn her hand. But on the wedding night, Laban snuck Leah, his older daughter, into Jacob’s tent, a switch Jacob did not realize until morning.
Jacob, who stole his brother’s blessing, now had the wrong wife. Still he loved Rachel, so he worked another seven years to earn her hand. Then he had two wives and each wife shared their servants with Jacob. All told, Jacob had twelve sons. Leah was the mother of Ruben (the oldest), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Zilpah (Leah’s maid servant) was the mother of Gad and Asher. Bilhah (Rachel’s maidservant) was the mother of Dan and Naphtali. (These sons would later be the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.)
Jacob/Israel goes to back to Canaan
While settling with Laban, Jacob became prosperous. That brought on some friction with the rest of the family, and that put Jacob’s life in jeopardy. The Lord told him to go back home to Canaan, so he packed up his wife, his servants and his children and returned to his homeland.
Before he crossed the river to enter, he sent his family and his possessions ahead and remained on the bank. During the night a man came to him and they wrestled each other. Why? The Bible does not tell us. The fight was a draw basically, but ended when the mysterious man struck Jacob’s hip and pulled it out of joint. The man asked Jacob to quit fighting and let go, but Jacob refused unless the man would bless him. The man said his name would no longer be Jacob, but Israel, “because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.”
And He (the mysterious person) said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” . . . And He blessed him there. (Genesis 32:24)
Why is this incident essential to our understanding of the Bible? We all, in one way or another, wrestle with God. Perhaps it is out of fear, or doubt, or confusion, but we all struggle. Israel means “’to have power, as a prince.” The story said Jacob wrestled with a man. Some believe it was an angel. But there is strong evidence to suggest that the “man” he fought with was no angel at all, but the Lord Jesus Christ. Jacob would say that he saw the face of God and lived.
God desires to have a deep, personal relationship with man. Ask anyone who has been in a long-term relationship and they will tell you that it takes work, and that there are some bumps in the road. So it is with our relationship to God. But despite the wrestling match, God has a plan. He loves us.
What you may not know
God created Israel and made them the chosen people not because they were better or deserved His preferential treatment. He choose them simply as a vehicle to show us how much He loves us regardless of our sin and disobedience. Following the events of the Israelites records His will so it is documented and available for us to follow.