Ancient Words: Israel (שָׁלֹם עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל)

By Scott Johnson

Israel--the word--means to persevere or prevail with God. "Israel" is actually first spoken by God, himself, to one called Jacob in the book of Genesis: That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak." But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered. 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." Jacob said, "Please tell me your name." But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob's hip was touched near the tendon. (Gen 32:22-32 NIV)

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 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. And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you." Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him. Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel. (Gen 35:9-15 NIV)

Through Jacob's 12 sons, or now Israel's 12 sons, comes the nation of Israel 430 years later--out of the bowels of slavery in Egypt. After 40 years of wandering in the Sinai desert, the promised land of Canaan (on the other or west side of the Jordan) river becomes the place to settle but not with out years of battle to drive out people with foreign gods opposed to the God of Israel.

Israel would conquer Canaan, hold it for almost 1,500 years, only to lose it to the Assyrians and Babylonians around 500 BC. Jerusalem would be returned to a remnant of Israel and the country of Judea would now come to exist for this remnant of people over the next 500 years. The destruction of Jerusalem happens again in AD 70--Israel will not see this city again in their own country until after WW 2 in 1947/1948. Israel has been tested for the right to exist several times over the past 75 years. They (Israel) have prevailed each time and the latest attempt which occurred this October will prove no different: I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs (Israel) is the adoption to sonship; theirs (Israel) the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs (Israel) are the patriarchs, and from them (Israel) is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Rom 9:1-5 NIV)

Peace upon Israel--(שָׁלֹם עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל)--God does persevere and prevail!!

Scott and Jane Johnson minister with East Faulkner Church of Christ and BRG Bible. Bible questions can be sent to [email protected]

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