There are seven times in the Biblical record when God spoke to a faithful follower, repeating his or her name twice. “Abraham! Abraham!” (Genesis 22:11) is the first. “Jacob! Jacob!” (Genesis 46:2) is the second.
Interestingly, both Abraham and Jacob had been given new names by their Creator. Abram, meaning Exalted Father, was given the covenantal name Abraham, meaning Father of Multitudes (Genesis 17:5).
Jacob, the name his parents gave him at birth, meant Heel Grabber, He Supplants, or (my favorite) Cheater. He went through life saying, “Nice to meet you. My name is Cheater!” (That reminds me of Johnny Cash and his song, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Back to the point... God renamed Jacob. He pronounced him, “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). His new name meant He Strives or Wrestles with God. G. Campbell Morgan interprets the name as “A God-Mastered Man.” I agree!
But God said, “Jacob! Jacob!” Not “Israel! Israel!” Interesting!
You remember the story. Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, the one with the multi-colored coat, had been sold into slavery by his ten older brothers. By God’s design, Joseph ended up as the Prime Minister in Egypt. During a severe famine, Jacob sent the ten boys to Egypt to purchase grain from the Egyptian government. Surprise ... “I’m your little brother... joke’s on you!”
Joseph’s brothers returned to Canaan with the news, and the promise that Joseph would set them up in Goshen, the best land in Egypt (Genesis 46:18) and care for them until the famine ceased. “They said, ‘Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!’ Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them” (Genesis 45:26, ESV). “And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes’ ” (Genesis 46:2-4, ESV).
By repeating his name, He surely got his attention. So, why didn’t God say, “Israel! Israel”?
Try this on for size...
God said, “Mr. Cheater, I promised to make you a God-Mastered Man! You’re not there yet. So, by grace, I chose to save you and your family from the famine!”
“Do not fear... I myself will go down with you” (Genesis 46:3-4).
“Mr. Cheater! Mr. Cheater! You’re a loser, and I love you anyway!”
“Mike! Mike! You’ve made so many mistakes. You’ve failed and fallen so many times... but, I love you anyway!”