Thursday, June 17, 2010

God Reconfirms Jacob’s New Name -- Genesis 35:10

And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called Jacob, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He called him Israel.

When God appeared again to Jacob to bless him, we note He first wanted to reconfirm a new name He had given to Jacob earlier.

God had also given a new name to his grandfather. In Genesis 11:26 we simply read that Terah begat Abram. But in Genesis 17:5 God changed Abram’s name to Abraham.

In the case of Isaac, Jacob’s father, God had selected the name Isaac before he was even born as we read in Genesis 17:19. When we get to Jacob, we read in Genesis 25:26 that his parents first named him Jacob, but soon thereafter in Genesis 32:28, when Jacob ‘strove’ with God, God changed his name to Israel. What is interesting is that from Genesis 34:7 to this present verse, Genesis 35:10, he continues to be referred to as Jacob until God once again reiterates the name He has given him, that is, Israel. At that point, Scripture refers to him sometimes as Jacob and sometimes as Israel. Later, in Genesis 46:2, we will see that God Himself calls him “Jacob, Jacob” in his dreams. And right up to today, both Jews and Christians refer to him as Jacob.

God seems to have wanted to be the name giver to these three patriarchs of ‘His people’. While the Christian mind may find it problematic that God the name-giver, at least in Jacob’s case, did not appear to stick to the name He Himself gave Jacob, the Hebrew mind has no problem. There is no contradiction in the fact that God may have given Jacob a new name from a divine perspective and at the same time the human Moses may have recorded or used another name when referring to him. Thus, both Jacob and Israel are used interchangeably.

What is important for us is to note two things: First, that people who are close to God and are to be used mightily by God are the ones that may get a new name. Secondly, that whether or not God gives us a new name is not the issue, but rather that when He gives us a new purpose, a new task, a new responsibility to carry out on His behalf, we be willing and ready to do so. Before we start looking for a new name, perhaps we need to focus on identifying what God has in store for us to do.

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