Atheist's Attacks

Answering Humanist's Accusations Against the Bible

Christian Resources

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 Lord’s 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. God is not prophesying that Jacob's name will be changed in the future, He is declaring that Jacob has a new name now. Since, it is not a prophecy, it cannot be a false prophecy. But, we still need to understand what is going on.

What was a name?

A name was a description of who a person was. Unlike today when we get stuck with a name at birth, and it takes some legal work to change that name. In Jacob's day, and continuing today in many cultures, your name could change as you grew older and your character changed.

In the New Testament, for example, In John 1:42 Simon becomes one of Jesus' disciples and Jesus renames Him as Peter. In Hebrew Simon means "listen" and Peter means "rock." Peter would eventually become a rock for Jesus, but in towards the end of the gospel of John, in chapter 21 Jesus goes back to calling him "Simon" instead of Peter.


Because Simon had denied him three times. He was not a rock. He had denied Jesus three times in fear, even to a lowly servant girl. Jesus used his old name because that's who he was... he was no longer the rock, but someone who needed to listen. Your name described who you were.

But, was this what was going on with Jacob/Israel?

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

Jacob gets a new name. 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 his older brother out of his inheritance.

In Genesis 35:10 God changes his name to Israel. What does that name mean? "Having power with God" or "strives with God." He is a man who obeys God and is trusting God.

So, what about Genesis 46:2, where he is called Jacob by God? But, 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?

Scripture does not explain why God gave Jacob the name Israel.

However, immediately after his name is changed to"Israel" in chapter 35, Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, continues to refer to him as Jacob. This is an indication that the Lord did not intend for him to never be called Jacob again. "Israel" could be a second name, what we would call a "nickname" today.

For example, in high school I played basketball, and I was a high jumper on the track team. One day the coach said to me, "From now on your name is 'Rocket.'" And that was what I was called. Other teachers still called me by my birth name, but in things related to sports I was "Rocket." I now had two names.

Another good possibility, and the one I think is most likely, is that God was using the name change to give him, and the nation of Israel, a name that would be better suited for a national people. Instead of being associated 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 now "Israel,” who had power with God.

Here is how I see it. If his name had not been changed, the Jewish nation would be called Jacobites -- the nation of deceivers. With the name change they are known as Israel -- God's fighter, the nation that has power with God. Which do you think is the better name?


This was not a prophecy, so there can be no false prophecy.

Next Prophecy:

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 Solomon’s 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 today’s standards.

Is this true? Is this going to be the prophecy the Bible fails on? Let's find out. Click for the next page.