What does Israel mean in the Bible?
Here's the answer:
Israel in the Bible is a person, a place, and a promise.
Israel the Person
Israel was a man, whose original name was Jacob. He was the twin of Esau and the son of Isaac and Rebecca. Jacob’s name means “supplanter.” This means he is a deceiver. Jacob lived up to his name and deceived many people including his family. Jacob took the birthright from his brother and took the blessing of the firstborn from his brother. Since he did this, Esau’s hated his brother and wanted to kill him. After many years, Jacob was heading back to the land of Abraham and Isaac with his wives and flocks, but he was scared of his brother.
One night, Jacob wrestled with a mysterious person. This person most likely was the pre-incarnate Christ or an angel. During this encounter, Jacob sees God face to face (Genesis 32:30). After he wrestles with the mysterious man, God gives Jacob the name Israel (Genesis 32:28).
Israel the Place
The nation of Israel that we see in the Bible is the descendants of Jacob. Israel was and will always be God’s chosen people. Despite being God’s chosen people, Israel was always struggling with God. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel rebelled and went against God. Even in the New Testament, much of Israel didn’t believe Jesus was who He said He was—God.
Israel the Promise
As Christians now, we can all join in the New Covenant where we can all have peace with God by believing in Jesus. God doesn’t just choose Israel now. He loves all people, and wants us to believe in Him.
Ephesians 2:12-13 says, "Before you believed in Christ, you were separated from him. You were not considered to be citizens of Israel. You were not included in what the covenants promised. You were without hope and without God in the world. 13 At one time you were far away from God. But now you belong to Christ Jesus. He spilled his blood for you. This has brought you near to God."
"Then the man said, 'Your name will not be Jacob anymore. Instead, it will be Israel. You have wrestled with God and with people. And you have won'" (Genesis 32:28).
"At Peniel he struggled with the angel and won. Jacob wept and begged for his blessing. God also met with him at Bethel. He talked with him there" (Hosea 12:4).
"'This is the covenant I will make with Israel after that time,' announces the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God. And they will be my people'" (Jeremiah 31:33).