Israel: Meaning In Bible And Knowing God’s Purpose For It

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Published by Kenneth Garcia


Co-Founder of Biblekeeper, Author & Theologian

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Israel is the promised land and is typically a Hebrew name. There are several somewhat similar meanings associated with the name Israel. Israel means “fighter of God,” “triumphant with God,” or, more generally, “one who wrestles with God.” Some people also relate the name’s meaning to the nation of Israel.

The Bible is where the name Israel first appears. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, engages in combat with an angel at the Jabbok ford in the Bible. Israel was then given to him as his new name. We learn the meaning of this name from Jacob’s struggles with God. The ancient state of Israel and the modern state of Israel both derive their names from this origin tale.

Key Takeaways

  • “Israel” means “fighter of God,” signifying a profound spiritual struggle and triumph with divine guidance, derived from Jacob’s experience in the Bible.
  • Israel, chosen by God, symbolizes the unique covenant between God and the Hebrews, serving as a prototype nation for demonstrating God’s way of life to all peoples.
  • The nation’s history, including its liberation from Egyptian slavery and the advent of the Messiah through its lineage, underscores its central role in biblical narratives.

What Does Israel Mean In The Bible?

In the Bible, Israel signifies the chosen nation of God. The Bible makes it apparent that God chose Israel[1], with its twelve tribes, as the holy nation with which He would work out of all the peoples on earth. “Yet hear now, O Jacob, My Servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen,” says God through the prophet Isaiah. This was the country God freed from slavery in Egypt, the country that God gave the land of Canaan, and the country through which the Messiah, Jesus, would come.

The word “Israel” referred to the special bond between God and the Hebrews and Jews as an ethnic group. When they were divided, the ten tribes in the north became known as Israel, and the tribes in the south became known as Judah. Therefore, the name was sometimes used to refer to all of Jacob’s offspring. This phrase was once again directed to the entire community after the banishment.

God said, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord, your God, has chosen you to be a people for Himself. The Lord did not choose you because you were more numerous than any other group of people; He chose you because He loves you. The Lord delivered you from the home of servitude and delivered you from the power of Egypt’s Pharaoh with a strong hand.”

In the King James Version of the Old Testament, the word “Israel” appears more than 2,500 times. The Book of Numbers and the Book of 1 Kings both contain the most instances. It is mentioned 75 times in the New Testament, most frequently in the Book of Acts.

After a struggle with a man, God gives the patriarch Jacob the new name Israel. Jacob’s descendants, known as Israelites, were born through Bilhah, Leah, Zilpah, and Rachel. Jacob and his family left for Egypt in 1670 BC because of a terrible famine in Canaan.

Before the Exodus, the family of seventy, which already included Joseph and his two sons in Egypt, expanded to a population of two to three million people in the Goshen region. They spent forty years wandering the wilderness after escaping Egyptian servitude in 1445 before being able to claim their inheritance.

ancient, weathered Bible set against the backdrop of the Western Wall in Jerusalem

What Is The Significance Of Israel?

The significance of Israel in the biblical narrative is deeply intertwined with mankind’s relationship with God. God created man in the garden and instructed him not to eat anything from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God provided a means for them to make up with Him after their transgression and fall. God understood that the only way a man could be made right with himself was for him to do it. It must be God since no man could have done it.

He would raise someone through Israel’s seed to trample on the enemy’s head. He made a sovereign decision to allow the seed to come from the line of Abraham. He said to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse everyone who curses you, and all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). God commanded, “Lift your eyes immediately and look. I give you and your descendants all the land you can see forever” (Genesis 14:14–15).

Every nation on earth is affected by the promise God made to Israel. The blessing (salvation) of every country was bound to Israel when God promised Abraham that all the nations of the globe would be blessed through his descendants. When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, arrived, the Israelites, God’s people, rejected him. Gentiles received salvation as a result, while Israel’s promised salvation was delayed.

To see ourselves as grafted into this olive tree, we as the church must accept God’s sovereign choice of Israel as His people. After accomplishing this, we must start looking for God’s purposes for Israel and praying for their deliverance and peace.

flag of Israel gently waving in a soft breeze, with sunlight casting a glow on the Star of David and the stripes

What Did Israel Provide For Us?

Israel provides for us a profound understanding of the importance of covenants, particularly the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham. We should care about Israel primarily for a covenantal reason—likely the most compelling one. This unbreakable link between two parties—in this case, between God and Abraham’s offspring—relates directly to us.

When prophets predicted a bright future, they considered Israel to be a miniature version of all humanity. God’s interactions with Israel serve as a model for how He interacts, talks to, and deals with the rest of the world. God purposefully picked Israel to benefit the earth (Genesis 12:3). This is a choice, an honor, and a duty all rolled into one.

The love story between God and Israel aids in our understanding of God’s nature. We gain a more profound experience of God’s unfailing mercy and compassion for His people and His heart for us. We also see His moral norms and guiding principles in action.

Israel has often failed, but there is still a plan and a reason for this country. Despite the shortcomings in my life and yours, we still have a plan and a purpose. Israel is also the spiritual link all believers have to the nation and its citizens.

Believers might feel a real connection to God by traveling to the locations where Jesus lived and will return to establish His future kingdom. Additionally, it helps individuals understand Scripture more deeply. Believers in Jesus are often encouraged to stir up holy envy in the Jewish people beyond simply caring for and about them.

Because Israel is essential to comprehending God’s love, purpose, and desire for humanity, Christians should be concerned about Israel. He created Israel to demonstrate His love for all people. Israel is His chosen vessel to reach Jews and non-Jews with His word and the Messiah. And he is calling on non-Jewish Christians to help bring back their Jewish brothers and sisters to the God of their fathers.

What Is God’s Purpose For Israel Today?

God’s purpose for Israel today is deeply intertwined with the revelation of Yeshua as their Messiah. Yeshua will be fully shown to Israel as their Messiah, and they will have been entirely re-grafted into their olive tree. That will then serve as the spark for a massive global awakening. Israel’s witness has contributed directly or indirectly to the previous salvation of millions of non-Jews. The words of Yeshua are valid: “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

On the Day of Pentecost, human history’s most significant spiritual awakening got underway. And who carried the flame of that revival fire’s initial torch? Jewish adherents. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us if Messianic Jews play a prominent role in the next awakening.

The salvation of the Gentiles was dependent upon Israel, as the apostle Paul noted in his letter to the Romans: “Because of Israel’s transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” In that instance, it resulted in Israel’s demise and temporary exile. However, God would again use Israel in her tactical redemptive role, this time through a spectacular spiritual return.

bustling Jerusalem street scene, adorned with Israeli flags fluttering in the air


God picked the Israelites for a particular reason. For all people to benefit from His bounties, He gave them a chance to become the prototype nation for His way of life. He made it plain that it wasn’t because Israel was great or righteous; instead, He rewarded them due to Abraham’s trust and obedience.

Sadly, it was said that Israel’s origins fell short of being the ideal nation God envisioned, and as a result of their national transgressions, God punished them. God is engaging individuals from all countries in spiritual labor because He loves all people. However, he still has a particular plan for Israel’s future offspring.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Full Meaning Of Israel?

The full meaning of Israel, as described in the Bible, is deeply intertwined with its origin story. Israel means “he struggles with God” or “God contends,” originating from the biblical story where Jacob wrestles with God and is then renamed Israel. This name signifies the complex and profound relationship between the nation of Israel and the divine.

What Does Israel Mean To God?

Israel means to God a chosen nation, a people through whom He would execute His plans and reveal His character. In biblical terms, Israel represents the recipients of God’s promises and covenants, and through Israel, God’s plans for humanity are unfolded.

Why Did God Give The Name Israel?

God gave the name Israel to Jacob after he struggled with an angel, symbolizing not just a personal transformation for Jacob but also setting a precedent for the nation’s identity. This name signifies struggle and perseverance in faith, embodying the nation’s ongoing journey and relationship with God.

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