What Many Cannot Tell,

Modern Demographics Can!

 

The Book of Mormon prophesies that in the latter-days, “Jews” would be “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and … be established in all their lands of promise.” (2 Nephi 9:2)

There is actually more than one Jewish Promised Land, according to the Book of Mormon. LDS scripture indicates that the American land of Lehi’s inheritance was, and would be a Jewish land of promise too. See 2 Nephi 1:9; 9:2; 10:7-14, 19; 30:4, 7-8; 33:8, Ether 13:21, Doctrine and Covenants 19:27; 57:4.

Today, many Mormons (LDS, Community of Christ etc.) cannot say for sure just where the Book of Mormon’s Promised Land (Lehi’s covenant “land of liberty”, 2 Nephi 1:5-7) is, except to say "somewhere in the Americas". But if we really are living in “the latter-days”, and if Jews (the most recognizable of all Israelites) truly are gathering in mass to either of two lands, can’t demographic studies tell us something about the identity of these lands?

The Jewish people have the highest migration rate of any major religious group in modern times. “Jews are abandoning Third World countries where historically they have been persecuted and moving to large and generally free First World countries”, states Jonathan Sarna, American Jewish History professor at Massachusetts’, Brandeis University. “The world Jewish community is consolidating” says Sarna. “Of the 13.3 million Jews worldwide, 43 percent live in Israel and 39 percent live in the United States.”[1]

In other words, 82 percent of all Jews have gathered to either the covenant land of “Yisra’El” (ישראל) or to what Israelis fittingly call “Artsot ha-Brit” (הברית ארצות), “Lands of the Covenant”, a.k.a. the United States.

"Jews have been part of the European settlement of what became the United States from the 1650s, notably in the city of New Amsterdam, which was later known as New York."[2] New York State (authentic Book of Mormon country) has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish citizens of any state in the Union.[2]

  

References:

[1] “World’s Jews migrate the most, study shows”, Lauren Markoe, Salt Lake Tribune, Saturday, March 10, 2012, Faith, C3.

Special thanks to Sister Linda Thomas (truly a Latter-day Saint who believes that the Lord maketh no such thing known, unlike Nephi's unbelieving brethren, 1 Nephi 15:9). She brought the S.L. Tribune article, and its plain implications to my attention.

 [2]  Dr. Ian Barnes, Joseph Bacon, The Historical Atlas of Judaism, 2010, pp. 252, 249

Vincent Coon  כּוּן וִינְסֶנט Copyright 2012

 

On Meanings of ISRAEL - ישראל

... Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28, KJV; compare with Hebrew Genesis 32:28)

It was the LDS Bible Dictionary that years ago prevailed on me to accept the definitions “Israel. One who prevails with God or Let God prevail.”

Where do these definitions come from?

Apparently these definitions were chosen (asserted really) from a comment in STRONG’S Hebrew Dictionary. See entry 8280 on the verb “saw-raw’; a prim. root; to prevail:- have power (as a prince). ”

In other words, those contributing to the LDS Bible Dictionary, conceived a couple of meanings for Israel from “sarah” (שרה), as uniquely interpreted in STRONG’S Hebrew note 8280. This they felt good about, and published, even though STRONG’S Concordance actually defines the name Israel differently (3478).

When one searches all instances of the Hebrew verb “sarah” (Genesis 32:28, Hosea 12:3, Isaiah 9:6-7) one struggles to find even one instance in which the verb is translated “prevail”. If “sarah” means “to prevail” where is it used as such in the Bible?

The verb “sarah” can mean persist, persevere, wrestle, contend, strive, struggle, exert oneself, exercise power … but none of these guarantee prevailing, or explicitly mean prevail. In fact, the expression translated “and have prevailed” in Genesis 32:28, comes from an entirely different word, “yakhol” (יכל); same as in Genesis 32:25, and Hosea 12:4.

If “sarah” means “to prevail”, then we have a potential redundancy in the verse: “... for as a prince hast thou power prevailed with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” This verse, Genesis 32:28, you will recognize from above, is the verse explaining Jacob's new name Israel (Yisra'El).

Of course the potential redundancy does not prove that “sarah” can’t mean “prevail”. Given the meanings of “sarah” (שרה) and “yakhol” (יכל), we may see in the same verse: “... for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed overpowered.” But as we look into the details of these two Hebrew verbs, it comes as no surprise that prevail is absent in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon definitions of Yisra'El.

El” in Yisra'El, is a reference to mighty “God”. (Psalm 82:1) The Most High God is “El-Elyon”, who, of course prevails, and will prevail; though human beings are free to choose whether or not they will obey his will. (Psalm 82:1-8) The question therefore isn't whether God will prevail, but whether he will prevail on our behalf more with justice, or more in mercy. (Isaiah 42:13)

The word “sar” (שר) means “prince”. The verb “sarar” (שרר) should be considered. Especially consider the verb “sur” (שור) as used in Judges 9:22 and Hosea 12:4. One who is to reign and become a prince of God is suggested in the name Yisra'El. (Genesis 27:29; 35:10-11, verse 11 in Hebrew)

The Hebrew letter yod (י) at the beginning of the name, indicates third person, masculine, future tense. So a direct interpretation of Yisra'El is: He will strive (persist, contend, wrestle …) – El. This is taken by some scholars to mean God strives, persists, contends …

Other scholars like to make a command out of the name, and suggest the jussive [Let] El persist, persevere, contend, strive, wrestle, exert power, … But there is really no explicit let in the name, and no prevail appears in these scholarly interpretations, notwithstanding STRONG’S Hebrew entry 8280 which asserts that “sarah” pronounced “saw-raw” means “to prevail”.

What if Jacob had let the being he was wrestling prevail? Would Jacob have been blessed with the name Israel? Scripture seems to indicate that the answer is no!

Scripture explains:

24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25 And when he saw that he (the man) prevailed not against him (Jacob), he touched the hollow of his (Jacob’s) thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

26 And he (the man) said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he (Jacob) said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27 And he (the man) said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28 And he (the man) said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:24-28, KJV)

One of the reasons Jacob was blessed with a new name was because he prevailed. In fact, verse 28 in Hebrew literally reads, “... va-tukhal” (ותוכל) = “... and thou hast prevailed”, meaning Jacob (Israel) had prevailed. For Jacob to have been blessed with the name Israel, he had to prevail with that being that strove with him. How do we know this? The man who blessed Jacob said so: “Thy name shall be calledIsrael: forthouhast prevailed.” This does not mean that the verb prevail is in the name Israel.

Suppose Israel can mean [Let] God prevail. Are we then to understand that Jacob was being reproved for prevailing when he was named Israel? How else was Jacob to be blessed if not by prevailing?

Some blessings come by wrestling and prevailing with the Divine. Jewish faith understands this. Consider Exodus 32:9-14, 30-33, Deuteronomy 9:18-19, 25-26, Ezekiel 22:29-31, Jacob 5:49-51, 1 Chronicles 5:2. Note that God is not a mortal man that he should repent of doing wrong (as in sin, Numbers 23:19), but the Eternal can change his mind, or be persuaded to change his mind in righteousness. (Jonah 3:10) Why? Because God who is holy, is also a person or persons.

Genesis 32:28, LDS note c actually admits that the verb in Israel means persevere. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon definition of this verb agrees that it means persevere, and no where states that it means prevail.

So how did STRONG’S Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew entry 8280 come up with the idea that the root “sarah” in “Yisra'El” means “to prevail”? Let’s compare the language of entry 8280, which asserts that the verb means “... to prevail -- have power (as a prince)”, with the unique language of KJV Genesis 32:28: “as a prince hast thou power ... and hast prevailed” (different than other translations). See the similarity? One strong possibility is that what you see here, is an attempt to fit a meaning to the verb in the name Israel based on the venerable English translation of verse 28; instead of more carefully discerning, and rightly dividing the ancient language.

Besides Joshua (James) Seixas, the Prophet Joseph Smith had few mortal Hebrew “experts” to consult with. The Prophet had a copy of Seixas’ Hebrew primer, Manual Hebrew Grammar for the Use of Beginners. A Hebrew verb for “to be able, prevail” is listed on page 69. This verb is the same as that discussed in STRONG’S Hebrew 3201. This verb is not in the name Israel. Of course there is more than one Hebrew verb that can be interpreted to mean “prevail”. Even so, Israel may come short of prevailing. Israel needs God’s help and blessing. (Exodus 17:11) If the name Israel suggests the need for God to prevail in hesed and in righteousness, it may be precisely because the name Israel does not include the verb prevail.

So what is really a strong interpretation of the meaning of Yisra'El?

I believe that if the Prophet Joseph Smith had openly, publically given us a definition of the meaning of Israel it would have been a lot like the one found in STRONG’S Exhaustive Concordance Hebrew entry 3478:

“…yis-raw-ale; … he will rule (as) God …”

This meaning of the name matches its use in the temple ordinances. With El, Israel rules as Elohim. (Exodus 22:28) In fact, since “elohim” is masculine plural, and parallels “anashim”, translated “men” in Genesis 32:28, the verse may be more properly translated:

“... Thy name shall be called no more Ya'aqov (Jacob), but Yisra'El (Israel): for as a prince (שר as in שרית) hast thou persevered (שרית) with gods and with men, and thou hast prevailed (ותוכל).

Note that the name Ya'aqov (Jacob) sounds a little like the Hebrew word for prevail, “yakhol” (יכל).

Scripture continues:

And Ya'aqov (Jacob) called the name of the place Peni'El (Peniel): for I have seen gods face to face, and my life is preserved.” (Genesis 32:30; compare with Genesis 32:1)

Can the name Ya'aqov be interpreted to mean “he (Yah) will supplant (prevail)”?

God with us (imanu El), the House of ISRAEL (ישראל) becomes an eternal family (ישרון, spelled with a “vav” (ו) or sign of the nail, and “nun” (ן) in the place of “El”); unlike “THE CHURCH OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS”, so named some years after the 1830 restoration of the Church of Christ (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 20:1, 61, 70-71, 80-81). Though the LDS Church has divine authority, she is nevertheless as her title indicates, a temporally limited part of a hybrid or compound church. (2 Nephi 2:11, Ephesians 4:11-13) The eternal part being the Church of Jesus Christ, or rather, the Assembly of Yehoshua ha-Mashiah, the Firstborn. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4; 128:21; 93:21-22)

If you wish to read about the ancient meanings of each of the characters spelling out the name Israel, click on the following letters below (read right to left):

י ש ר א ל

 

 

Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2021

 

 

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