And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Throughout the Bible, we find a handful of instances where God changed the names of His servants. Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Sarai became Sarah (Genesis 17:15), and Simon became Peter (Mark 3:16). But the most memorable of these name changes just might be this account, when Jacob became Israel.
The name Jacob means “supplanter.” He came out of the womb holding his brother’s heel; and he continued that trend for the first part of his life. Through manipulation and deception, Jacob received Esau’s birthright and blessings and then took off running.
In time, as God began to work with him, Jacob began to change. After receiving a humbling vision from God (Genesis 28:13-15) and then experiencing many years of deception at the hands of his uncle Laban (Genesis 31:40-42), Jacob’s character was changing.
When God renamed Jacob, He was signifying that the son of Isaac had become someone different. Having turned his back on his days of supplanting and deception, God used this new name, meaning “struggle with God” or “he prevails with God” to signify a new chapter in Jacob’s life—one of seeking God instead of relying on trickery.
What God did in Jacob’s life can teach us important lessons about what God is doing with us. He wants us, like Jacob, to be “transformed by the renewing your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Though He doesn’t change our name in this physical life, God’s people will receive a new name in the future: “To him who overcomes I will give … a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).
For a crash course on changing your life, read our article “Change Your Life This Year.”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Learning to Forgive.”