Why did the Lord change Jacob’s name to Israel?
After Jacob’s confession to God (Gen. 32:27), the Lord did something rather unexpected: He changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “he who struggles or strives with God.” The name Israel is given to Jacob because, in a sense, Jacob had striven with God and with people (v. 28). After God touched and dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob was no longer able to continue wrestling. The only thing he could do was cling to God (v. 26). In his weakness, Jacob asked for and received blessing from the Lord (vv. 26, 29). Herein resides the vital lesson that God’s people must learn in every generation: Jacob’s victory was not the result of his own strength and effort but came through desperate weakness. He clung to God until blessing was acquired.
It is only when we stop wrestling and start clinging to God that we become strong and prevail. Paul may have had this in mind when he penned these words: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).