Jacob’s Name Changed to Israel

I understand when a person’s name in the bible is changed, it usually denotes the person’s new role/office e.g. Abram to Abram meaning “father of a multitude”.

Jacob’s name was changed to Israel meaning “May God prevail” or “Triumphant with God” (happy to be corrected if I’m wrong). When his name was changed, he already had twelve sons. That being the case what was his new role/office as a result of his name being changed?

Hey Augustine3,

Below is a link to an article on a website that addresses your question. I have found the website to be quite interesting when it comes to things of the Old Testament. It’s called “My Jewish Learning”. I don’t know much about it but I find it to be interesting. Perhaps meltzerboy could offer us his critique of the website sometime.


You’re not reading the story in context.

Jacob grabbed a blessing through trickery, and then had to run off and break with his family in fear of his brother getting back at him for the trick. Then for all the years of his wandering, Jacob tricks his uncle and gets tricked back, has his wives tricking each other and stealing each other’s marital rights, and has his wives steal his uncle’s pagan idols.

But in the end, he wrestles with the angel in a fair fight, and keeps at it until morning. No tricks, no running away. So instead of having the name “Supplanter,” he becomes a winner - with God’s blessing, fairly obtained.

After this, he is able to face his brother Esau and try to pay him back, in the hopes of saving his family and household – and then he finds that his brother forgave him long ago.

Now, that’s not the end of all the tricks and resentment in the family. Joseph suffers horrible things from his brothers’ jealousy. But Joseph sticks it out honestly in a very bad situation, and with God’s help he comes out on top. The whole family and people is then saved by Joseph’s wisdom and stick-to-it-iveness.

The whole history of Israel is that it’s stupid for Jacob’s descendants to try to get by on their own cleverness and by flouting God, because the other peoples around them will smoosh them. But when they are faithful to God and do His will, they are triumphant in Him.

So the renaming comes toward the end of Jacob’s personal main-character storyline, but it’s still just the beginning of the story of the children of Israel’s role in the world.

The link should help the O.P.

Israel means to battle with God.

I think Jacob had been tricking his way through life as Mintaka explained.

His name and office were changed because he was to become the head of his generation, and the future Israel, and the continuation of the covenant made with Abraham. And thus he had to learn to confront his conflicts, which he did when he fought with the angel all night and thus his name was changed because he learned to do this. He had to learn to confront people, not trick them. You can’t hold an important office through trickery.

Others will know much more than I do and I’ll be looking forward to reading others.


Jacob did not steal the birthright/blessing. His mother put him up to it. He was doing what he was told.

The son with the birthright took care of the elderly parents. His mother did not want Esau taking care of her because he was “a man of the field”, always running around and never at home. She wanted Jacob who “dwelled in tents” to care for her. Securing the blessing was entirely her doing, not his.

Children were free to trade, sell or even just give up their birthright. Esau was free to do so. The child with the birthright got a double inheritance but also had to care for the family. Esau would not have cared for his mother very well and didn’t deserve the blessing or double inheritance. That he sold his birthright for a plate of noodles shows how little he cared for it.

Jacob and his mother are like ourselves and Our Lady. All we have to do is obey Our Lady and she will secure the blessing from the Father for us. She will clothe us in Her Son’s garments so that Our Father sees Jesus’ merit instead of our sin.


Actually I have heard that Rebekah was severely punished for her trickery against her husband. She never saw her favorite son again after he left to work for Laban.

This story is all about birthright and the favor of the parents, and the consequence was divided nations. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Jacob and Esau were fighting for their birthrights even in the womb. Jacob’s tale is a tale of a huge amount of deception from beginning to end.

Love your very last sentence.

I do, however, agree with Christine77.

I’d like to add that Jacob did steal the birthright. His mother planned it, but he went along with it. The blessing went to him, not to Rebekah, and so HE stole the birthright. It doesn’t matter that his mother put him up to it. This kind of reminds me of Adam and Eve. Eve ate the fruit and then offered it to Adam, but he took it of his own free will and ate of it.

Plus Isaac calls Esau to tell him he’s going to give him the blessing. Clearly Isaac wants Esau to have it - so it’s stolen no matter how you want to reason it. Jacob put the hairy clothes on, he lied and said he was Esau, and repeats it more than once.


The blessing is not the same as the birthright. They are two different things.

The oldest son has the right of first birth or birthright. He gets a double share of the inheritance but is expected to become head of the household - to care for the elderly, protect the children, earn a living, etc. Any eldest son is completely free to sell, trade or simply give away the birthright to his brother or even to someone not in the family. A son with the birthright is free to simply walk away from it and it then falls to the next oldest son. Jacob did nothing wrong to acquire the birthright. Esau sold it for a plate of noodles. He cared more about food than he did about taking care of his mother. Jacob’s acquisition of the birthright was totally legitimate.

This is different from the blessing. Yes, Jacob went along with mother’s plan but he was an obedient son, just as Jesus was obedient to his own mother.

Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. (Genesis 27:8)

Jacob then protests but his mother says…

His mother said to him, “Upon me be your curse, my son; only obey my word, and go, fetch them to me.” (Genesis 27:13)

Note that Jacob’s mother swore an oath, “May our curse be upon me.” She willingly took any anger, backlash of her husband or the curse or divine retribution from God upon herself. This lets Jacob off the hook and his conscience is clear.

Jacob is an obedient son, just like Jesus.

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

Jesus does not want to start his ministry at the wedding at Cana but he obeys his mother who simply says to the servants, “Do what he tells you.”

Jacob is a “type” of Christ while his mother is a “type” of Our Lady.


To get back on topic, you get your identity and purpose from the one who names you. You serve the one who names you.
***God names Adam and allows Adam to name the beasts.

Pharoah renames Joseph.

God renames Abram.

Jesus renames Simon and the other Apostles. ***

This shows who gets their identity and purpose from whom and who serves whom.


Do you have a supporting reference/s?

I learned about the ancient custom of birthright from the “Bible Timeline” Bible study by Great Adventure/Jeff Cavins. The text itself speaks of selling the birthright…

Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:31-34)

Also see 1 Chronicles 5:1-2. Jesus gave his birthright to his friend John from the Cross…

***When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. *(John 19:26-27)

A Jew at the time of Jesus would have clearly understood this as giving up a birthright and passing responsibility to care for Our Lady to John.

I don’t have any academic references offhand.


Good try, but I think these are two different stories. Jesus was passing on his knowledge and understanding to John, but Jacob was usurping his brother’s right. I don’t really see what you are trying to intimate by comparing these two situations. Jesus was not duplicitous, but Jacob truly was.


Jesus giving up His birthright?

I don’t think anyone else would either want it or be able to bear it!

His birthright was pretty heave: Messiah, Savior, Lord, Redeemer, etc. And what did he get for it??? The cross. Which was in the plans from the start…

No time.


It’s more than a try.

The idea of birthright is historically accurate and of Jacob as a “type” of Christ widely accepted by theologians. To say this isn’t true is just ignorance of Jewish history and culture and ignorance of basic theology.

You guys need to get into a good Bible study like “The Bible Timeline” by Great Adventure/Jeff Cavins.


Could you show me something supporting Jacob as a Christ type?

Here’s something on the point of Jacob as being a type of Christ:

The following are true types of Christ and His work:

(a) Jacob’s Ladder.

“And he said to him, Verily verily I say unto you, Hereafter thou shalt see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

This statement of Jesus’ alludes to Jacob’s vision of a ladder or stairway stretching from earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12).

Jesus presents himself as the reality to which the stairway pointed. The patriarch saw in a dream the reunion of heaven and earth through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ, which is now brought to reality both for Jacob and for all believers.

This part could be accepted as looking forward to Jesus as being a “staricase” to heaven.

I’m having a problem with the birthright idea. I don’t believe Jesus gave away His birthright to John at the cross. He meant this to say that John should take care of His mother, Mary, and that Mary was to become the mother of John, and we take it to mean also of the whole church.

You’re right in saying that a birthright gave to the first born a double portion of the inheritance.

Also, the first born held a position of authority in the family. - Jesus
He also had priestly duties within the family (preparing the sacrifice) - Jesus

I don’t see how Jesus could have given away the above.

So, of course the idea of birthright is historical, but I can’t believe Jesus gave His away and that He’s to be compared to Jacob in this way. Anyway, it was Esau who gave away his birthright.

Also, in your previous post re Rebekah making Jacob steal the blessing, you say Jacob had to obey her and compared this to Jesus too. Jesus believed in obeying parents as you rightly state. But would He have done something He knew to be wrong??

But, leaving Jesus out of this: Are you saying Jacob HAD to obey due to cultural beliefs and customs?


Disagree with much of what was said by the poster, but I agree that Jacob is a type of Christ.

Pretty much every important character in the Bible is a type of Christ.

You don’t even have to be a good guy. An evil type can be “recapitulated” by Jesus in a different and good way, just like Mary is the Second Eve (ie, Mary is like Eve if Eve had made the right choices).

There are whole books and books of types, particularly with the patristic and medieval writers. Tons of fun with comparisons of stories.

I never said that Jesus would have done something wrong. I said that Jacob’s obedience to his mother was a forshadowing of Christ’s obedience to Our Lady.

Keep in mind that Jesus gives his birhtright to “The disciple whom he loved”. That means you and I.

The disciple who he loved was John (to whom he granted long life and the care of his mother) but he gave his keys to Peter.

Giving your aged mother into the care of a trusted friend is not giving away your birthright, in my opinion. In that light, Jacob actually abandoned his mother (who was so fond of him that she would trick and lie for him).

In a way, Jacob tricked God into giving him the blessing by wrestling with him, just as he tricked his father. That doesn’t sound like Jesus at all, who submitted to the will of his father even unto death.

We are all the disciples whom Jesus loved. It is a metaphor for you and I.

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