Genesis 35:10 – And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.
Jacob had fled from his home as an unmarried man roughly 40 years of age. Now, over 20 years later with two wives, 12 children, and great wealth, Jacob had nearly completed his long journey home to Bethel. After seeing that his sons shared some of his former trickery and self-sufficiency rather than faith in God, Jacob led his family in righteousness in a way that he failed to with the account of the violation of his daughter Dinah in Genesis 34.
God again spoke to Jacob to go to Bethel and, like Abraham before him, he obeyed. To purify his household that was apparently filled with spiritual lethargy, godless idols, and superstitions, Jacob commanded that all false gods and other spiritual paraphernalia be removed. In this act we see the progression of Jacob’s faith.
After wrestling with God and walking away with a more mature faith in Genesis 32, Jacob then witnessed the effects his weak faith had wrought among his children in Genesis 34. So, Jacob responded by rising to become the spiritual leader in his home before returning home to carry on the legacy of a faithful covenant keeper who obeyed God and raised covenant children who likewise obeyed God. After cleansing his household, Jacob worshiped God.
God responded to Jacob’s faith by appearing to him again. God then blessed him and reiterated that his new name was Israel, though in Genesis 34, he had temporarily fallen back into acting like the old Jacob gripped by fear and self-preservation when he needed to live confidently by faith. God then reiterated His covenant promises of descendants, land, and blessing. Jacob responded by worshiping God, and we are now seeing a rhythm of regular worship and intimacy with God that had been lacking in his life until this point. His faith has greatly matured as is evidenced by Moses now writing of him as Israel rather than Jacob frequently throughout the rest of Genesis.
What changes has God patiently wrought in Jacob’s character as he was slow to grow spiritually? How is this encouraging to you personally?