I understand the significance of God's renaming. But I wonder if anyone has done any research as to why the writers of scripture (and consequently, Jews and Christians today) refer to AbraHAM (changed name), Isaac (never offered a new name) and then JACOB (the name BEFORE God changed it to Israel)? You never hear "Abram, Isaac, and Jacob" and you rarely hear "Abraham, Isaac, and Israel." (Though there are a few instances as pointed out below.) Why is Jacob not granted his new name when his covenant participation is referenced? Even in Genesis, once Abram is renamed Abraham in Gen 17:5, he is never again referred to as Abram, but "Jacob" and "Israel" continue to be used almost interchangeably throughout the Genesis narrative.

Not simply looking for opinions, but rather if someone has had insight (possibly building upon the insight of others) that can shed light on this. The theory has been posed that it could be as simple as avoiding confusion between Israel the nation and Israel the person - which is verifiable because it can be assumed that "Israel" was a people group even if Moses wrote the pentateuch with his own hand.

If no significant research has been done on this topic, I may endeavor to spend a few weeks/months on answering my own question because I do believe it is valid and I do believe it is appropriately a matter of scholarly research.

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    Good question, based on good observation. Commented May 25, 2018 at 20:16
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    Slight correction. We do read of "Abraham, Isaac, and Israel" in Exodus 32:13; 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Chronicles 29:18; and 2 Chronicles 30:6; and possibly elsewhere. Don Commented May 25, 2018 at 21:10
  • Thank you, I see that now. And I am considering your response below as I feel the question still stands. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
    – sss979
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 23:11
  • Also, it’s worth noting that the phrase “Children of Israel” is used many times throughout the Bible, obviously referring the Jacob by his new name. I have no basis for this, but I’ve often wondered if it wasn’t just a simple retroactive thing just to avoid confusion. By the time the history was written down, the people where already called Israel, so, when speaking of the man, to avoid confusion, the writers used his birth name, even if, perhaps, in life he actually went by his new name. Commented May 28, 2018 at 10:11
  • @sss979 - What a shame this question has been closed. I've spent over an hour doing research to come up with some Bible based insights. If this question can be reworded so it can be opened up again, that would be really good.
    – Lesley
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


In his monograph entitled The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Dr. Richard D. Patterson observes that in the pivotal event in Israel's history when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah invoked the formulaic or motivic words you have drawn our attention to:

“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

Dr. Patterson then makes the following observations:

God sent a fire that not only consumed the sacrifice, but the altar itself and everything surrounding it. The use of the patriarchal formula not only reminded the Israelites of who was their God, but also demonstrated that those who are faithful to the Lord could call upon him and have their prayers answered (cf. Ps. 102:1-2. James 5:16-18). It is noteworthy as well that in the formula utilized here the patriarchal name Israel occurs rather than Jacob. For like Jacob of old, the Israelites of Elijah’s time (i.e., during the reign of Ahab and his wife Jezebel) needed to hold fast to the Lord if they were to experience his favor and blessing (my emphasis).

In other words, if Dr. Patterson is correct, the Israelites as a nation, and at that point in their backslidden condition, needed to cling to the LORD just as Jacob did on the night the LORD appeared to him and wrestled with him. I suggest, therefore, that by implication Dr. Peterson is saying that Jacob as Jacob was a grasper of the heel of Esau (see Genesis 25:26), but Jacob as Israel was one who held on to God and would not let Him go until God blessed him. At that point, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, meaning "one who has striven with God and man and prevailed" (Genesis 32:24-32).

On Mount Carmel, then, Elijah is in effect telling Israel to keep holding on to God if you truly want to experience the LORD's blessing and prevail over the priests of Baal.

As for the other appearances of the formula, "Abraham, Isaac, and Israel," I'll leave them to another person who chooses to build upon my modest foundation of an answer!

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