Why did God change Jacob's name to Israel?
In Bible times, babies were given names thought to be appropriate. Nobody invented names by connecting unrelated sounds. Jacob was given his name because of circumstances of his birth (Gen. 25:24–26). It was not a flattering name; it meant “supplanter” or “deceiver.” Subsequent events in his life prove that he was well–named. Many years later, at Peniel, Jacob's name was changed. God gave him the new name of Israel, meaning “to struggle” or “to persevere” (see Gen. 32:28, 35:9–10; Hos. 12:4). He had struggled with God and prevailed. It was a life–changing experience. Both he and the nation named after him are called Israel or Jacob. When the name Jacob is used, the reference is usually, though not always, to Israel's failings. When the promises of God to the nation are in view, Israel is the preferred name.
By C. Donald Cole
Moody Radio Pastor