Blog Archive

Thursday, July 2, 2009

El Elohey Yisrael / Mighty God of Israel

For July, each post examines an Old Testament name of God.

El Elohey Yisrael / Mighty God of Israel
(pronounced: "ale el-oh-HAY yis-rah-ALE")

Then Jacob said, "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac ... I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant ... Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him ..."
~ Genesis 32:9-11 (NKJV)

Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not overcome him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks." But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" So He said to him, "What is your name?" He said, "Jacob." And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you prevail as a prince with God and with men and endure."
~ Genesis 32:24-28 (author)

Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan ... And he bought the parcel of land ... Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel.
~ Genesis 33:18-20 (NKJV)

If you're in a hurry, come back to this post later. The full story behind this name is nearly as long and complicated as the life of the man Israel, better known as Jacob.

Twenty years before Jacob uses the name "Mighty God of Israel," he'd fled his homeland to escape his murderous brother Esau. YHWH then appeared to Jacob and promised to multiply his descendants and bring him back home. The encounter with God terrified Jacob, who vowed that if YHWH fulfills this promise, YHWH shall be his God (Genesis 28:10-22).

Already in his seventies, growing up in the company of his grandfather and father Abraham and Isaac, now hearing God speak to him personally, it seems Jacob ought to be ready to choose YHWH among the pantheon of gods available to worship. Yet it will take another twenty years, four wives and eleven sons before God brings Jacob to such a place.

Jacob is now in his nineties. He again flees, this time to his homeland from his father-in-law Laban, this time with an abundance of family and wealth, this time at God's direction. Laban overtakes the company to confront Jacob, who evidences a measure of faith in his reply, “Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.” (Genesis 31:42)

The title "Fear of Isaac" is noteworthy. As a youth Isaac lay bound on an altar under his father Abraham's knife, a sacrifice to God. Whatever else Isaac conveyed to his son Jacob, it was evidently fear of such a terrifying God. This is the God to Whom Jacob now desperately turns, acknowledges as the Source of all the undeserved mercy and truth he's known, and begs for deliverance.

The same God is about to confront Jacob face to face.

God manifests Himself as the Angel of YHWH. Jacob wrestles with Him throughout the night. He persists even when his hip is displaced, even when the mighty Being insists Jacob release Him. Jacob endures, refusing to turn away from the pain and struggle, unwilling to release God (now that he's got a hold on Him) until he receives a blessing. The blessing is a new name: Israel, or literally, "prevails as a prince of God."

Jacob goes on to not only be delivered from Esau, but to be blessed by his brother. The lives of his descendants are preserved, and he receives the land YHWH promised him.

Jacob is finally ready to commit himself. He builds an altar and uses this name to worship: El Elohey Yisrael (Mighty God of Israel). In doing so, Jacob testifies to the power of this God Whom he has encountered so personally, declares Him as his own God, and accepts the blessing of a new name.

Have you heard for many years of this terrifying God Who allows suffering, seemingly without cause or explanation? Has He spoken to you? Have you wrestled with Him? If so, now that the two of you have had a hold on each other, have you acknowledged His greater might and fully submitted yourself to it? Have you declared Him to be your God and accepted that you are His prince or princess?

If so, you may call upon Him as "Mighty God of ____________ [your name here]."

(And when you find yourself again wrestling with Him, do you endure until you prevail and are blessed?)

Your feedback is appreciated. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. Holding out for the blessing. Praise God. I appreciated that paragraph of questions and the way you are continually bringing me to a new place in my faith.

    Thank you for what you write.
    ~ Wendy

  2. Your words delight my heart my friend, love you.

  3. I think now, after all these years, I'm ready to fill in that blank.

    Thank you, Annie, for a wonderful post.

  4. I love that God and I have a hold of each other, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    I've often pondered wrestling with God, and have come to realize that in many areas I have indeed prevailed. But I believe more await conquering.

    Wonderful post, Anne.

  5. "I am my beloved's and he is mine, and his banner over me is love!"

    Thank you for this, Anne.


  6. Wendy, thank you for being so encouraging.

    Denise, I praise the Lord for the delight in your heart. I love you, too.

    Billy, it took Jacob 20 years. I think you're ahead of him.

    Julie, victory comes by endurance.

    Carol, isn't it wonderful to belong to Him and know Him as our own?


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