Genesis 32:28
And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed.
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(28) Israel.—That is, a prince of God, or, one powerful with God. (See Note on Genesis 17:15.) Esau had given a bad meaning to the name of Jacob, nor had it been undeserved. But a change has now come over Jacob’s character, and he is henceforth no longer the crafty schemer who was ever plotting for his own advantage, but one humble and penitent, who can trust himself and all he has in God’s hands. The last words signify, for thou art a prince with God and men; or possibly, for thou hast striven with God and men.

32:24-32 A great while before day, Jacob being alone, more fully spread his fears before God in prayer. While thus employed, One in the likeness of a man wrestled with him. When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer. Jacob kept his ground; though the struggle continued long, this did not shake his faith, nor silence his prayer. He will have a blessing, and had rather have all his bone put out of joint than go away without one. Those who would have the blessing of Christ, must resolve to take no denial. The fervent prayer is the effectual prayer. The Angel puts a lasting mark of honour upon him, by changing his name. Jacob signifies a supplanter. From henceforth he shall be celebrated, not for craft and artful management, but for true valour. Thou shalt be called Israel, a prince with God, a name greater than those of the great men of the earth. He is a prince indeed that is a prince with God; those are truly honourable that are mighty in prayer. Having power with God, he shall have power with men too; he shall prevail, and gain Esau's favour. Jacob gives a new name to the place. He calls it Peniel, the face of God, because there he had seen the appearance of God, and obtained the favour of God. It becomes those whom God honours, to admire his grace towards them. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was the second Person in the sacred Trinity, who was afterwards God manifest in the flesh, and who, dwelling in human nature, is called Immanuel, Ho 12:4,5. Jacob halted on his thigh. It might serve to keep him from being lifted up with the abundance of the revelations. The sun rose on Jacob: it is sun-rise with that soul, which has had communion with God."What is thy name?" He reminds him of his former self, Jacob, the supplanter, the self-reliant, self-seeking. But now he is disabled, dependent on another, and seeking a blessing from another, and for all others as well as himself. No more Jacob shall thy name be called, but Israel - a prince of God, in God, with God. In a personal conflict, depending on thyself, thou wert no match for God. But in prayer, depending on another, thou hast prevailed with God and with men. The new name is indicative of the new nature which has now come to its perfection of development in Jacob. Unlike Abraham, who received his new name once for all, and was never afterward called by the former one, Jacob will hence, be called now by the one and now by the other, as the occasion may serve. For he was called from the womb Genesis 25:23, and both names have a spiritual significance for two different aspects of the child of God, according to the apostle's paradox, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" Philippians 2:12-13. "Tell now thy name."

Disclose to me thy nature. This mysterious Being intimates by his reply that Jacob was to learn his nature, so far as he yet required to know it, from the event that had just occurred; and he was well acquainted with his name. And he blessed him there. He had the power of disabling the self-sufficient creature, of upholding that creature when unable to stand, of answering prayer, of conferring a new name, with a new phase of spiritual life, and of blessing with a physical renovation, and with spiritual capacity for being a blessing to mankind. After all this, Jacob could not any longer doubt who he was. There are, then, three acts in this dramatic scene: first, Jacob wrestling with the Omnipresent in the form of a man, in which he is signally defeated; second, Jacob importunately supplicating Yahweh, in which he prevails as a prince of God; third, Jacob receiving the blessing of a new name, a new development of spiritual life, and a new capacity for bodily action.

28. Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel—The old name was not to be abandoned; but, referring as it did to a dishonorable part of the patriarch's history, it was to be associated with another descriptive of his now sanctified and eminently devout character. No more Jacob, not Jacob only. See the like manner of expression 1 Samuel 8:7 Jeremiah 23:7 John 7:16 1 Corinthians 1:17.

Israel signifies a prince or prevailer with God; or, a prince of God, i.e. a great prince and conqueror. Thou hast in some sort conquered both God in this conflict and men, Laban, Esau, &c.,

and hast prevailed; or, and shalt prevail over Esau, of whom thou art afraid. And he said, thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel,.... That is, not Jacob only, but Israel also, as Ben Melech interprets it, or the one as well as the other; or the one rather and more frequently than the other: for certain it is, that he is often after this called Jacob, and his posterity also the seed of Jacob, though more commonly Israel, and Israelites:

for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed: this is given as a reason of his name Israel, which signifies a prince of God, or one who as a prince prevails with God; which confutes all other etymologies of the name, as the upright one of God, the man that sees God, or any other: he now prevailed with God in prayer, and by faith got the blessing, as he had prevailed before with Esau and Laban, and got the better of them, and so would again of the former: hence some render the word, "and shall prevail" (i); and indeed this transaction was designed to fortify Jacob against the fear of his brother Esau; and from whence he might reasonably conclude, that if he had power with God, and prevailed to obtain what he desired of him, he would much more be able to prevail over his brother, and even over all that should rise up against him, and oppose him; and this may not only be prophetic of what should hereafter be fulfilled in the person of Jacob, but in his posterity in future times, who should prevail over their enemies, and enjoy all good things by the favour of God: for it may be rendered, "thou hast behaved like a prince with God, and with men", or, "over men thou shalt prevail".

(i) "praevalebis", V. L. Sept. so the Targum of Onkelos.

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

(k) God gave Jacob both power to overcome, and also the praise of the victory.

28. Israel] That is, He who striveth with God, or, God striveth. The name is clearly a title of victory, from a root meaning “to persevere.” (a) The meaning seems here to be applied to Jacob as “the perseverer with God.” It is commonly compared with Jerubbaal = “he that striveth with Baal” (Jdg 6:32). The prophet Hosea gives this meaning in Genesis 12:3-4, “in his manhood [or ‘strength’] he had power [or ‘persevered,’ ‘strove’] with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed.” (b) The meaning, on the analogy of similarly formed words, would be “El persevereth”; and would be exactly similar to Seraiah = “Jah perseveres”; Ishmael = “God hears.” Another suggested derivation is from sar = “prince.” See another account of the origin of the name “Israel” given by P in Genesis 35:10.

The narrative of

J, from this point onwards, shews a marked preference for the name “Israel” in its application to the patriarch.

The name of “Israel” has been found, as is generally believed, in the inscription of the Egyptian king, Merneptah (circ. 1230 b.c.), as Ysir’r; and in Assyrian inscriptions as Sirlai.

thou hast striven, &c.] R.V. marg. thou hast had power with God, and thou shalt prevail against men. LXX ἐνίσχυσαςδυνατὸς ἔσῃ; Lat. fortis fuisti … praevalebis. Jacob had prevailed in his contest with Laban; now, also, the promise of deliverance from Esau is contained in the past tense, “hast striven and hast prevailed.” The rendering of the R.V. text gives the literal translation of the Hebrew. The past and the future are embraced in one thought.Verse 28. - And he said, Thy name shall be called no more (i.e. exclusively, since both he and his descendants are in Scripture sometimes after this styled) Jacob, but Israel: - יִשְׂרַאֵל, from שָׂרָה, to be chief, to fight, though, after the example of Ishmael, God hears, it might be rendered "God governs" (Kalisch), yet seems in this place to signify either Prince of El (Calvin, Ainsworth, Dathe, Murphy, Wordsworth, and others), or wrestler with God (Furst, Keil, Kurtz, Lange, et alii, rather than warrior of God (Gesenius), if indeed both ideas may not be combined in the name as the princely wrestler with God ('Speaker's Commentary,' Bush), an interpretation adopted by the A.V. - for as a prince hast thou power with God - literally, for thou hast contended with Elohim [Keil, Alford, &c.), ὅτι ἐνισχυσας μετὰ θεου (LXX.), contra deumfortis fuisti (Vulgate), thou hast obtained the mastery with God (Kalisch), rather than, thou hast striven to be a prince with God (Murphy) - and with men, and but prevailed. So are the words rendered by the best authorities (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy, Wordsworth), though the translation καὶ μετὰ ἀνθρώπων δυνατὸς ἔσῃ (LXX.), quanto magis contra heroines prevalebis (Vulgate) is By some preferred (Calvin, Rosenmüller, &c.). Although hoping for aid and safety from the Lord alone, Jacob neglected no means of doing what might help to appease his brother. Having taken up his quarters for the night in the place where he received the tidings of Esau's approach, he selected from his flocks ("of that which came to his hand," i.e., which he had acquired) a very respectable present of 550 head of cattle, and sent them in different detachments to meet Esau, "as a present from his servant Jacob," who was coming behind. The selection was in harmony with the general possessions of nomads (cf. Job 1:3; Job 42:12), and the proportion of male to female animals was arranged according to the agricultural rule of Varro (de re rustica 2, 3). The division of the present, "drove and drove separately," i.e., into several separate droves which followed one another at certain intervals, was to serve the purpose of gradually mitigating the wrath of Esau. פּנים כּפּר, Genesis 32:21, to appease the countenance; פּנים נשׁא to raise any one's countenance, i.e., to receive him in a friendly manner. This present he sent forward; and he himself remained the same night (mentioned in Genesis 32:14) in the camp.
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