I. Surprisingly the name's meaning is uncertain (BDB 975, KB 442).

A. El Persists

B. Let El Persist (jussive)

C. El Preserves

D. Let El Contend

E. El Strives

F. He who strives with God (word play Gen. 32:28)

G. Reliable (IDB, vol. 2, p. 765)

H. Successful

I.  Happy

II. Usages in the OT

A. Jacob's name (supplanter, heel grabber, BDB 784, KB 872, cf. Gen. 25:26) is changed after wrestling with the spiritual personage at the river Jabbok (cf. Gen. 32:22-32; Exod. 32:13).  Often the meanings of Hebrew names are sound plays, not etymologies (cf. Gen. 32:28).  "Israel" becomes his assigned name (e.g., Gen. 35:10).

B. It came to be used as a collective name for all of Jacob's twelve sons (e.g., Gen. 32:32; 49:16; Exod. 1:7; 4:22; 28:11; Deut. 3:18; 10:6).

C. It came to designate the nation formed by the twelve tribes before the exodus (cf. Gen. 47:27; Exod. 4:22; 5:2) and after (cf. Deut. 1:1; 18:6; 33:10).

D. After the united monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon the tribes split under Rehoboam (cf. 1 Kings 12).

1. the distinction starts even before the official split (e.g., II Sam. 3:10; 5:5; 20:1; 24:9; 1 Kgs. 1:35; 4:20)

2. designates the northern tribes until the fall of Samaria to Assyria in 722 b.c. (cf. 2 Kings 17).

E. Used of Judah in a few places (e.g., Isaiah 1; Micah 1:15-16).

F. After the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles it became again the collective name for all of Jacob's descendants living in Palestine (e.g., Isa. 17:7,9; Jer. 2:4; 50:17,19).

G. Used of laity in contradistinction from priests (cf. 1 Chr. 9:2; Ezra 10:25; Neh. 11:3). 


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