Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 35:9-12

9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan-aram, and blessed him.

10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.

11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;

12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.

Now that Jacob had come to this consecrated land God appeared to him again. This time it appears that God’s identity was not a mystery to Jacob, such as at the time of his night-time wrestle. God is here in clarity and power, for he is here to reaffirm His solemn oaths to Jacob.

Jacob is reminded that he is not to be called Jacob, but Israel, and that he is to sire a nation of kings, and that his children will inherit this land that surrounds him. This reminder of divine promise is very similar to the process that God took Abraham through. God knows that the nature of our hearts is for faith to wane and doubt to creep in, and so He takes special effort to revitalize and reinvigorate us. Were we perfect, God would only need to speak once, and we would always believe, but we are not perfect, and God gracefully accounts for it.

Unlike with Abraham, though, the promises given are already beginning to be fulfilled. All of Abraham’s life he had only one son born into divine promise, and Isaac only had one son of promise as well. Neither of these men had the beginnings of a great nation before their eyes, they just had to trust that it would come at some future date. Jacob, however, now has eleven sons, and soon twelve. There have been three generations of trunk, but now Jacob is seeing the stem splitting into many branches. The reality of God’s promise was at last beginning to manifest.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 35:5-7

5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. 

6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Beth-el, he and all the people that were with him.

7 And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

Jacob had been concerned how the neighbors would react to his sons killing the men of Shalem. There was a legitimate fear that the local might destroy the small household, and I would imagine especially so while they were out on the road without cover. Fortunately the people recognized that God walked with Jacob’s household, and restrained themselves from any violence.

And so Jacob’s wars were being fought for him, won before they even started. In peace he arrived at his destination, and there he made a new altar, just as he had when he first rested at this place.

Jacob also christened the land with a new name. Previously he had called it “Beth-el” which meant “the house of God”. Now he named it “El-beth-el” which means “the God of the house of God.” A bit of an unconventional name by our modern standards, and I admit I don’t understand the redundant use of “God,” but it does make for an interesting palindrome.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:29-30

29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. 

30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

After Jacob received his new name, he inquired to also know the name of his heavenly messenger. The divine being rebuked that request, and a few reasons why he might have occur to me.

For one, it might have been that the name of this person did not matter. This quite possibly was only an angel sent as a representative of God, and the identity of that emissary was not important. For another, it might have been meant to tell Jacob that he still had a life of spiritual searching ahead of him. “You’ve come closer to me than ever before, Jacob, but you’re going to have to go further if you want to know my name.” Years later, when Jacob blessed all of his sons, he would pronounce a name he had evidently learned for the God that would walk among men: Shiloh.

A third possibility for what the divine wrestler meant might be “don’t you already know who I am?” To me this answer resonates the best. It directly leads into Jacob’s statement in verse 30: “I have seen God face to face.” When Abraham had met his Lord, he immediately recognized Him and bowed himself to the earth, without requiring God to confirm it. Jacob was now being brought into the same close intimacy, and from here on out he would be expected to know his maker when he saw him.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 32:26-28

26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Even after his thigh was dislocated Jacob did not give up the fight! We don’t know at what point of night this wrestling match began, but it seems to have continued for a very long while. Now the sun is rising, heralding the day in which Jacob must stand before his brother Esau, and he will not quit the fight until he receives some assurance that all will be well.

The messenger asks Jacob his name, and Jacob delivers the only one he has ever had, the one given of his father. Now, like his grandfather Abram, Jacob receives another from God. The name Israel is comprised of two parts, “isra” which means to fight or strive, and “el” which means God. Together they mean “God strives” or “God shall fight.” Jacob had prevailed with God, and now God would fight for Jacob’s cause.

The angel does not make any promises about the meeting with Esau, though. Jacob is going to have to face what follows, he won’t be let off the hook there, but he is being assured that God will prevail with him through whatever that meeting entails.

Interestingly, Jacob still continues to be referred to as “Jacob” throughout the rest of his biblical record and not “Israel.” This is different from Abram and Sarai, who are exclusively referred to as Abraham and Sarah after their new names are given. Some have pointed out that the bible seems to treat Jacob as the man, but Israel as his legacy, almost as though the persona that he exuded past mortality is the identity which is to be referred to as Israel. Or maybe it signifies that Jacob had trouble embracing the new identity God had called him to. Or maybe it’s just a clerical error. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, I don’t believe we have any definitive answer.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:7-11

7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.

9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

Isaac repeats the same pattern as Abraham, informing the people of Gerar that Rebekah is his sister (technically she is his first-cousin-one-removed) instead of his wife.

When I first read this passage, I noted that the king here was named Abimelech, the same as when Abraham passed through this land. I thought it amusing that he would have been tricked twice by Abraham and his son, however, a little research reveals that Abimelech was a common name among the Philistines, also being the name of another king in the time of David. Thus it could be another king with the same name, or perhaps the name was actually a title, much like “Pharaoh” for the Egyptian kings.

I also assumed that the phrase “Isaac was sporting with his wife” was a euphemism for some sort of physical intimacy. But as it turns out, the word used in the original Hebrew is צְחַק or tsachaq, which means “to laugh.” So, it seems more accurate to say that Isaac and Rebekah were laughing, joking and/or playing together, in such a way that he could tell they were closer than just siblings.

Something else interesting is that the Hebrew word tsachaq is the same word used to describe when Sarah laughed after God said that she would bear a son in her old age. And then, when Isaac was born, he was named after that moment. His name in Hebrew is Yitschaq. Here is how the two words (tsachaq and Yitschaq) are written in the Hebrew language:

צְחַק
יִצְחָק

Isaac’s name literally means “he laughs,” and this phrase about him sporting with Rebekah can be read as “he-laughs was laughing with his wife.” It is an amusing sentence.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 17:1-6

1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 

2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

It has really stood out to me in this study just how many times God reiterates His promises to Abram, and each time He does so it seems to be more earnest and intimate, drawing Abram closer and closer. The last time He led him through a solemn ritual covenant, and this time He is giving Abram a new name.

Receiving a new name is a very significant and privately sacred event. Each of us is assigned a name when we are born. Sometimes this is a reference to someone that our parents respect, but who may not be anything like us. We might receive a nickname from friends later in life, based off of a single character trait or a memorable event, but this also falls short of defining who we really are. But what if we could be given a name by someone who understood us perfectly, someone who had made us, and knew the very purpose for which He had done so?

Receiving a new name from God is a sign of His fatherhood over us, a way that He claims us as His own. A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of asking God what names or titles He has for me, and if you’ve never done this yourself, I recommend trying it and seeing what happens. Just be sure you avoid the temptation of speaking for Him, though. It will only be a significant experience if it truly comes from God and not your own imagination.

In Abram’s case, there were many qualities that God could have singled out while giving him his new name. Abram had fought the armies of Elam, but God did not call him Abram the Warrior. Abram would become known for digging wells later in his life, but God did not call him Abram the Well-Digger. No, God knew that the primary defining trait of his son would be that of a patriarch, a father of many nations, a revered and respected head of a tremendous family. And so his name became Abraham.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 3:20

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

I had never noticed before that Eve did not receive her name until this very moment. In fact Adam may not have had a name either. In Hebrew, the word for “adam” simply means “man,” and the same word is translated interchangeably into both “Adam” and “man” in my English bible. Thus, during this time in the garden, God is simply speaking to them as “the man” and “the woman.” But at the moment of transition Eve, at least, is receiving a new name.

And notice that Eve’s name is not one of shame. The Hebrew word behind our English “Eve” is “chavah” or “havah,” which means “to give life.” It is a very beautiful and powerful name, a name that frankly wouldn’t have been applicable to her before she fell and gained the ability to conceive and bear children.

This points out the fact that Adam and Eve may have received a curse, but there was a blessing within that curse. Toil and pain were their inheritance, but so were children. Sin and condemnation had been introduced, but eventually so would a Savior and a redemption. Adam and Eve had passed from a glory, but they came into another, and with a promise to return to the first. And when they returned to that first it would be with new titles and honors, including “mother of all.”

Who Am I?- Genesis 17:5, Genesis 32:28, John 1:42

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

COMMENTARY

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham
Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas

There is a theme in the scriptures of people being given a new name in association with finding their calling in life. This is a moment of extreme importance, usually based around a turning point, where the old person is remade into something greater.
Especially important is who it is that is giving out these new names: God or Jesus Christ, the same individuals who seek to give us a new life, a new identity, a new purpose to follow. These are the original creators of our souls, and also the creators of our new soul, after we choose to come to them.
Therefore, the question of “who am I?” can be replaced with another question, that of “who will God make me into?” Though it goes entirely against the grain of worldly philosophy, we do not make ourselves. Perhaps we choose our own destiny, but we choose it from the options that He gives us. If you ever want to really know who you are, you have to start asking Him who He thinks you are.