The word Israel appears in the Bible over 2,400 times, and it’s used in a number of different ways. The word itself is difficult to precisely define. The el part of the word refers to God, as in Elohim. The rest of the word comes from the Hebrew sara, usually defined as to wrestle, or compete.


In Genesis 32 we read about Jacob, and how he wrestled with a man throughout the night. In verse 28 the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”


Jacob, now Israel, had 12 sons. Each son had a family, and – as was common then – Jacob’s descendants were known as the ‘children of Israel.’


Later, Jacob’s descendants grew in number and chose a king, and became known as the ‘nation of Israel.’ After Saul, the first king, came Ish-Bosheth, David, and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms for around 350 years, from 928 BC to 587 BC: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Today, of course, Israel is again a sovereign nation.

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