God changed Jacob’s name to Israel Gen 32:28. Israel’s twelve sons became known as the children of Israel, patriarchs of the twelve tribes who received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Also, the holy land that God promised to Abraham Gen 17:8.
The Hebrew word yakov, Jacob, meant “supplanter.” Jacob had replaced Esau to receive Isaac’s blessing Gen 27:19–29. His appearance remained unchanged, but his substance, and therefore his name, were transformed. But when Jacob experienced a change of heart, he received a change of life. We remember when Jacob said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant” Gen 32:10.
Our Father was pleased by Jacob’s humility. That night Jacob wrestled with an angel appearing as a man. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him” Gen 32:25. The angel told him, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed” Gen 32:28. This name Israel means “struggle with God.” In Hebrew, isra is struggle. El is a short form for God.
Isra-el is the people who struggle to carry out the 613 Torah mitzvot but were never able to keep the covenant. § 578. The struggle is always to rise above our fallen nature toward Rabbi Yeshua in his New and Eternal Covenant.
East of Eden, our Father had imposed a constant striving against pride as spiritual exercise to strengthen his children’s souls. Jacob’s wrestle was a foreshadow that our Father would soon greatly increase his children’s striving against concupiscence by giving them a great body of law with which to wrestle. His limp was a foreshadow that our Father knew they could not follow it completely but would be spiritually strengthened by striving to follow it, and humbled by falling short. Our Father would soon warn Moses that the Israelite people would not be able to keep the entire body of law.
Later our Father would confirm that the Torah was spiritual exercise. “For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Ps 51:16–17.
Still later, God’s Mashiakh would raise the spiritual exercise much higher. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” Mt 5:3–12.
The name Israel would be forever with God’s chosen people, his people Israel, because they would be a people striving against their fallen nature, with God’s help, to reflect God’s shining glory back to him and to one another. God willing, it will also forever be associated with the land of Israel, the land of the people who struggle daily to obey God’s law as they know it.