The Bible and False Prophecy
Is this one even a prophecy?
THE HUMANIST'S CLAIMS: Genesis 35:10 claims that God told Jacob: [T]hy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name. . . . But 11 chapters later, the Lords own act proved his prediction to be wrong. Genesis 46:2 relates: God spake unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob. And he said, Here am I.
First, this is not a prophecy. It is a declaration (see Genesis 35:10 on the next page). God is not prophesying that Jacob's name will be changed in the future; He is declaring that Jacob has another name. Since, it is not a prophecy; it cannot be a false prophecy. However, it is still useful to understand what is going on.
What was a name?
In Old Testament times, a name was a description of who a person was. Unlike today when we are given a permanent name at birth, and it takes some legal work to change that name. In Jacob's day, and in many non-western cultures today, your name could change as you grew older and your character changed.
In the New Testament, for example, go to John 1:42. Simon becomes one of Jesus' disciples and Jesus gives him a new name, Peter. The name Simon means, "listen" and Peter means "rock." Peter would eventually become a rock for Jesus. However, it is interesting that towards the end of the gospel of John, in chapter 21 Jesus goes back to calling him "Simon" (listen) instead of Peter.
Because Simon had denied him three times. He was not a rock. He had denied Jesus three times in fear, even denying Jesus to a lowly servant girl. Jesus used his old name because that is who he was... he was no longer the rock, but someone who needed to listen. Your name described who you were.
However, was this what was going on with the names Jacob and Israel? Why did God give Jacob another name?
Jacob Gets A New Name
God said to him, "Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name. - Genesis 35:10
What does "Jacob" mean? One definition is "he deceives." It also means the "supplanter." Jacob was a twin who was born second. However, he twice deceived (supplanted through deception) his older brother out of his inheritance.
In Genesis 35:10 God changes his name to Israel. What does “Israel” mean? There are a number of ways to translate it to English:
- Having power with God
- Strives with God
- God’s Fighter
This is a name that indicates a man who obeys and trusts God, and as a result has strength and power from God.
So, what about Genesis 46:2, where God calls him Jacob? However, let's not leave it with just that one instance. In Genesis, after God gives him the name Israel, he is still referred to as Jacob more than 30 times, sometimes being called Jacob and Israel in the same sentence.
Why Use Two Names?
On the surface, the use of both names is an indication that the Lord did not intend for him to never be called Jacob again. "Israel" could be a second name. Possibly, what we would call a "nickname" today. However, that’s’ not how things worked back then. Your name described your character.
It appears Jacob’s character never fully became the character described by the name Israel. So scripture continues to use both names, reflecting his mixed character.
Scripture does not give us an explanation. However, based on the cultural context, it appears God gave him the name Israel to reflect who he was supposed to be, and who he was most of the time. However, he was not perfect. When he was striving with God, and having power with God, that is the name God used. However, at times he was also a backslider called Jacob.
In addition, it was important that the nation that came from him would be called “Israel.” At that time nations took on the name of their founding leader. God’s purpose was to give him, and even-tually the nation of Israel, a name that would be suitable for a na-tional people who were God’s chosen people. Instead of being asso-ciated with deceit and the theft of his brother's blessings, he would be known as “God’s fighter,” or the one who “has power with God.” So even when his birth name was still used, he was also "Israel,” the father of the nation who had power with God.
If his name had not been changed, the Jewish nation would be called Jacobites — the nation of deceivers. That would not do for God’s chosen nation. It would not accurately reflect who they were. With the name change they are known as Israel — God's fighter, the nation that has power with God. Which do you think better reflects the character of the nation of Israel? The name of Israel!
This was not a prophecy, so there can be no false prophecy. Names in Jacob’s day, and still today in some parts of the world, were not used the way they are in our Western culture. Your name would change as you grew older and changed.
At II Chronicles 1:12, God promised Solomon: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.
As Robert Ingersoll pointed out in the nineteenth century, there were several kings in Solomons day who could have thrown away the value of Palestine without missing the amount. And the wealth of Solomon has been exceeded by many later kings and is small by todays standards.
Is this true? Is this going to be the prophecy the Bible fails on? Let's find out. Click for the next page.