Dictionary of Bible Names

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Bible Meaning: He will rule as God, God prevails
Strong's Concordance #H3478

The word Israel appears more than 2,500 times in the King James Old Testament. It occurs the most in the book of Numbers (236) followed by the book of 1Kings (203). In the New Testament, it is recorded 75 times, with the book of Acts having the most occurrences (21).

The patriarch Jacob, after wrestling with a "man," is renamed Israel by God. His descendants, produced through four women (Bilhah, Leah, Zilpah and Rachel) are collectively known as Israelites.

In 1670 B.C., Jacob and his family migrate to Egypt due to a severe famine in Canaan (Genesis 46 - 47). The family, numbering seventy (which included Joseph and his two sons already in Egypt) lives in the land of Goshen and grows to a nation of 2 to 3 million (likely more) before the Exodus. They, after leaving Egyptian bondage in 1445, wanders the wilderness for forty years before they are allowed to enter their inheritance.

Map showing division of Israel's land in 1398 BC
Division of Promised Land to Israel

A Brief History

All the tribes of Israel enter the Promised Land, under Joshua, in 1405 B.C. They, in whole or in part, are then governed by a Judge for 280 out of the next 355 years of their history. Saul, in 1050, is made king over God's people.

Saul, David and Solomon rule over Israel for a total of 120 years. The kingdom splits, in 930, into two distinct nations. These are the Kingdom of Israel in the north (ten of the tribes) and the Kingdom of Judah in the south (the remaining tribes).

The Kingdom of Israel has twenty kings rule over it for its short history of 207 years. The nation is finally conquered and taken out of the land by the Assyrian Empire in 723 B.C. The Kingdom of Judah, or Jews, has nineteen men and one female reign over it during its 344 years of existence. They, too, are conquered, with the Babylonians completing their captivity of the people, as well as destroying Jerusalem and its temple, in 586.

Spiritual Dimension

One of the main teachings of the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul, is the concept of a true, or spiritual, Israel. Instead of being composed of physical descendants from one human, it is made up of all those who believe the gospel and have the Holy Spirit residing in them.

Under the New Covenant, race, nationality, sex or other physical based criteria are not used to determine who is or is not part of God's people. Rather, it is anyone who repents, is baptized, receives God's Spirit, and lives a life of obedience and overcoming who are considered members of this spiritual organism (Romans 9:6 - 8, Galatians 3, 6:16, Ephesians 3:6, 1Peter 2:9).

Important Verses


Genesis 32:28
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Nation (All Tribes)

Genesis 47:27
And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen: and they had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly.

Matthew 19:28
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Nation (Northern Ten Tribes)

1Kings 12:20
And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king . . .

Scattered Descendants

Matthew 10:6
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


Romans 9:6 - 8
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Additional Studies

Dictionary of Biblical Names
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Series Notes
References are based on the
King James Bible translation (KJV).