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The name Israel first appears c. 1209 BCE, in an inscription of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah.

The inscription is very brief and says simply: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not”.

The Hebrew Bible etymologizes the name as from yisra “to prevail over” or “to struggle/wrestle with”, and el, “God, the divine”.

The eponymous biblical patriarch of the Israelites is Jacob, who wrestled with God who gave him a blessing and renamed him “Israel” because he had “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed”. (Genesis 32:24-32)

According to the Hebrew Bible, Israelites are the “chosen people” of God. The name Hebrews is sometimes used synonymously with “Israelites”.