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The name ‘Israel’ is given to Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, after Jacob’s mysterious encounter with God in Paniel (literally, “face of God”; Gen 32:24-30; 35:9-10).

After Genesis, ‘Israel’ is used in various ways:

  1. as the name of the people supposed to be descended from Israel (Jacob): in the Pentateuch normally bene Yisra’el, ‘children of Israel’
  2. as the name of the those Israelites living north of Jerusalem and across the Jordan, as distinct from Judah
  3. as the name of a kingdom, including Judah during the reigns of David and Solomon, but not thereafter
  4. after the fall of the kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE (sometimes), to refer to Judah alone
  5. after the Babylonian exile, as the people’s religious name claimed by Jews and/or Samaritans, but never used by outsiders