Old Testament 2022
Thoughts to Keep in Mind: The House of Israel

“Thoughts to Keep in Mind: The House of Israel,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Old Testament 2022 (2021)

“Thoughts to Keep in Mind: The House of Israel,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2022

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Thoughts to Keep in Mind

The House of Israel

Somewhere in the wilderness east of Canaan, Jacob nervously awaited an encounter with his twin brother, Esau. The last time Jacob had seen Esau, about 20 years earlier, Esau was threatening to kill him. Jacob had spent all night wrestling in the wilderness, seeking a blessing from God. As a result of Jacob’s faith, persistence, and determination, God had answered his prayers. That night Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, a name that means “he perseveres with God” (Genesis 32:28, footnote b; see also Genesis 32:24–32).1

river Jabbok

Near the Jabbok River, Jacob received the name Israel.

This is the first time the name Israel appears in the Bible, and it’s a name that perseveres throughout the book and throughout history. The name soon came to refer to more than just one man. Israel had 12 sons, and their descendants were collectively known as the “house of Israel,” the “tribes of Israel,” the “children of Israel,” or the “Israelites.”

Throughout history, the children of Israel attached great significance to their descent from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Their lineage was an important part of their covenant identity. The Apostle Paul proclaimed that he was “of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1). When Lehi sent his sons to Jerusalem to retrieve the plates of brass, one reason was that the plates contained “a genealogy of his fathers” (1 Nephi 5:14; see also 1 Nephi 3:3). Lehi discovered that he was a descendant of Joseph, and his posterity’s understanding of their connection to the house of Israel proved important to them in the years to come (see Alma 26:36; 3 Nephi 20:25).

In the Church today, you may hear about Israel in expressions like “the gathering of Israel.” We sing about the “Redeemer of Israel,” the “Hope of Israel,” and “Ye Elders of Israel.”2 In these cases, we aren’t talking or singing only about the ancient kingdom of Israel or the modern nation called Israel. Rather, we are referring to those who have been gathered from the nations of the world into the Church of Jesus Christ. We are referring to people who persevere with God, who earnestly seek His blessings, and who, through baptism, have become His covenant people.

Your patriarchal blessing declares your connection to one of the tribes of the house of Israel. That’s more than an interesting piece of family history information. Being a part of the house of Israel means that you have a covenant relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It means that you, like Abraham, are meant to “be a blessing” to God’s children (Genesis 12:2; Abraham 2:9–11). It means, in the words of Peter, that “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). It means that you are one who “perseveres with God” as you honor your covenants with Him.


  1. There are other possible meanings for the name Israel, including “God rules” or “God fights or perseveres.”

  2. Hymns, nos. 6, 259, and 319.

Jacob’s family tree

Family Tree of Jacob (Israel), by Brent Evans