Your Name Will Be Israel (Genesis 35:10)

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In Genesis 32, right before Jacob meets Esau for the first time after he stole the birthright, Jacob wrestles with God (or a representative of God) (Genesis 32:24-32).

It’s an interesting scene; most likely, it represents the struggle that Jacob has engaged in his whole life. And will engage in for almost the entire rest of the book of Jacob.

After the struggle, God changes his name from Jacob to Israel, which means “one who prevails.” It’s an obvious nod to the fact that Jacob “prevailed” over God’s representative, just as he has “prevailed” over Esau, Laban, and just about everyone else he has encountered.

But think of it from another angle. When he was born, Rebekah gave him the name “supplanter” because he held on to Esau’s heel during birth. He lived up to that name by “supplanting” Esau and taking his birthright

The transition from “one who supplants” to “one who prevails” is noteworthy and shouldn’t go overlooked. Originally, Jacob is known as a deceiver, one who takes what isn’t his. Now, Israel is one who overcomes.

It’s important for Jacob to remember how he got to where he was. Sure, he took the blessing from Esau, but it was his faith that led him back to Canaan. God was with him, but he still had to walk all those steps.

What he counted on — and what he based his faith on — was God walking with him. And as he learned when he returned back to Bethel and God reminded him of his new name, God never left. His faith was intact and God stood by Him. 

Through God, the supplanter became the overcomer.

The deceiver became the one who prevails.

Jacob became Israel.