The other meaning of Israel
Study Hebrew and discover Biblical secrets

Traditional Explanation

The man said to Jacob: Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed (Gen. 32:28). Therefore, it is widely believed that the name “Israel” comes from the Hebrew word sharit (שרית), which in biblical Hebrew means “to struggle”, “to exercise influence”, or “to prevail”. There is another way to interpret this name, one which helps us comprehend the depth of the transformation.

What happened to Jacob?

The name Israel can be read as Yashar- El (ישר-אל). The Hebrew word Yashar (יָשָׁר) means straight, honest, honorable, law-abiding and in biblical usage, it also means “righteous, God-fearing person”. The root akov (עָקֹב֙), on the other hand, (the root of the name Yakov) might mean also “crooked”, as in this verse: the crooked (הֶֽעָקֹב֙) shall be made straight (Is 40:4). Then we understand the meaning of this change: Israel is the one whom God makes straight, as opposed to “being crooked and uneven”. 

Hebrew reveals the true meaning

Names in the ancient Jewish world carried a very important weight. A name spoke of a person’s character, his deeds and his identity. For a person to be given a new name, meant a change in their identity. Reading the Bible in translation we miss the meaning of the names; undoubtedly, this is one of biggest losses we experience because of translation. The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies' live online Biblical Hebrew courses will reveal to you the true meaning of Biblical names and many other secrets of the Scriptures. Enroll today!