Skip to content

ישראל Israel (or rather Yishrael) – God is Straight

And he is saying, “Your name is not being called ‘Heel Chaser’ going around, for if El-is-Striving then you have striven with mighty ones and with mortal men, and you are able.`

Genesis 32:28 RBT

The Hebrew name “Yisrael,” Strong’s #3478, is traditionally thought to be derived from the roots שׂרה (sarah) and אֵל (El), meaning “God Strives.” However, its exact meaning has been debated for centuries since the idea of God “striving” or “struggling” doesn’t make much sense. The word עוֹד (od) in this verse properly means “a repeat, do again, going around” (cf. Strongs #5750) and was apparently never taken into consideration for the meaning. Instead, שרית (sharit), meaning “you have contended/striven,” was the focus for interpretation. The difference in meaning arises from the pointing of the letter ש which can be either “sin” or “shin.” ישר can be from the root שרה (sarah) meaning “he is striving, contending” or the root ישר “yashar” (cf. Strongs #3474) meaning “to be straight/he has become straigh.” The Masoretes responsible for adding the points in the 7-10th centuries AD, put יִשְׂרָ (yisra) instead of יִשְׁרֵ (yishre) reflecting the traditional pronunciation. The pointing in Job 37:3 reflects this: יִשְׁרֵהוּ “yishre-hu” meaning “he straightened him.”

The root for “Yishrael” would be ישר (yashar), as seen in the adjective Strong’s #3477. This root means “to be straight, make straight, smooth, easy.” Therefore, the name ישראל would be pronounced something like “Yishrael.” In the Greek New Testament, Ἰσραήλ “Israel” is just as irrelevant to the consonant pronunciation as the Greek form “Jesus/iesus” is to the Hebrew “Yeshuah.”