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