Israel (name)

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Pronunciation/ˈɪzrəl, ˈɪzr.əl/
Hebrew: [jisʁaˈʔel] (Modern)
Hebrew: [jiɬraˈʔei̯l] (Biblical)
Meaning'God Contended',[1] 'Wrestles with God',[2] 'Triumphant with God'[3]
Other names
Related namesIzzy, Rae

Israel is a biblical given name. According to the Book of Genesis, the patriarch Jacob was given the name Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל, Modern: Yīsraʾel, Tiberian: Yīsrāʾēl) after he wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32:28 and 35:10). The given name is already attested in Eblaite (𒅖𒊏𒅋, išrail) and Ugaritic (𐎊𐎌𐎗𐎛𐎍, yšrʾil).[4] Commentators differ on the original literal interpretation. The text of Genesis etymologizes the name with the root śarah "to rule, contend, have power, prevail over":[5] שָׂרִיתָ עִם־אֱלֹהִים ‎ (KJV: "a prince hast thou power with God"), but modern suggestions read the el as the subject, for a translation of "El/God rules/judges/struggles",[6] "El fights/struggles".[7]

The name appears on the Merneptah Stele as 𓇌𓊃𓏤𓏤𓂋𓇋𓄿𓂋𓏤 (ysrỉꜣr), referring to a foreign group of people.

In Jewish and Christian texts from the Greco-Egyptian area during Second Temple Judaism and beyond the name was understood to mean "a man seeing God" from the ʾyš (man) rʾh (to see) ʾel (God).[8]

Jacob's descendants came to be known as the Israelites, eventually forming the tribes of Israel and ultimately the kingdom of Israel, whence came the name of modern-day State of Israel.

Given name[edit]



  1. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Meaning, origin and history of the name Israel". Behind the Name.
  2. ^ "Israel Definition and Meaning - Bible Dictionary". Bible Study Tools.
  3. ^ James P. Boyd, Bible dictionary, Ottenheimer Publishers, 1958
  4. ^ Michael G. Hasel, Domination and Resistance: Egyptian Military Activity in the Southern Levant, Brill, 1998
  5. ^ שָׂרָהśarah "to contend, have power, contend with, persist, exert oneself, persevere" (Strong's Concordance H8323) שָׂרַרśarar "to be or act as prince, rule, contend, have power, prevail over, reign, govern" (Strong's Concordance 8280)
  6. ^ Hamilton 1995, p. 334[citation not found]
  7. ^ Wenham 1994, pp. 296–97[citation not found] The Jewish Study Bible of Oxford University Press says on page 68 "The scientific etymology of Israel is uncertain, a good guess being '[The God] El rules.'"[1]
  8. ^ The Old Testament pseudepigrapha. Charlesworth, James H. London: Darton, Longman & Todd. 1983–1985. p. 703. ISBN 0232516278. OCLC 14814462.CS1 maint: others (link)