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I have 2 questions, Question 1: Why and when did the Jews change their name to Israel, and then to Israeli?
And, Question 2: The direction of East in the Bible seems to be dominant over the other 3 directions. Do you know why?
Excellent questions and they help us see how the Biblical past connects to the present day.
First the name "Israel":
In Genesis Chapter 32, the Angel of the Lord wrestled with Jacob and afterward re-named him "Israel". Jacob was the son of Abraham's son Isaac, and I'm sure you remember the story of Jacob's birth in Genesis Chapter 25. Jacob means "supplanter", or "chiseler" or we would say today, "cheater". When God re-named him "Israel" in Gen. ch. 32, "Israel" means "prince of God", or "ruler with God".
The descendants of Abraham through his grandson Jacob are called "Israel" after God re-named Jacob "Israel". Interestingly, when the Jews are out of fellowship and under God's discipline, God still calls them "Jacob", as in Isa 27:9, Isa 58:1, and Eze 39:25. In Jer. 30:7, the Great Tribulation is referred to as "the time of Jacob's trouble".
The Godly line which produced the genealogy of Jesus comes through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (God has a wonderful way of re-naming and changing the life of people. Good example, in Gen. ch. 17, Abram & Sarai meant "father of high and windy places", or we would say "full of hot air", and Sarai meant "contentious woman", - quite a pair - but God got ahold of them and changed them to Abraham, meaning "father of many nations", and Sarah, meaning "princess".)
Abraham had another son through his bond woman Hagar in Gen. ch. 17. Abraham & Sarah had a hard time believing God's promise of a son born to them since they were so far past child bearing age, so Sarah suggested that maybe God meant for Abraham to go in unto her hand maid Hagar to produce the promised son. Abraham thought this was a good idea, and the result was Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations. The two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, were enemies even as children, and had to be separated in Gen ch 21.
Isaac is the father of the Jews, and Ishmael is the father of the Arab nations. God promised to make Ishmael and the Arabs into a great nation also, in Gen 17:20 and 21:18. But God said in Gen. 16:12 that the sons of Ishmael would be wild and untamable. (Remember that when God saves a person, there is no Jew or gentile, but all one in Christ Jesus)
God initiated a covenant with Abraham in Gen. 17:19 that gives the sons of Isaac the land of Palestine forever.
The Arab prophet Mohammed, who lived from 570 to 632 AD, re-wrote portions of the Old Testament, to state that God gave the land of Palestine to the sons of ISHMAEL, not Isaac, and called it the Koran. So, now we have the descendants of Isaac promised the land of Palestine in the Bible, and the descendants of Ishmael promised the land of Palestine in the Koran! The whole Middle East problem started in Abraham's tent! And, to this day, the Arabs and Jews are still natural enemies.
It is very important to understand the Abrahamic Covenant:
1. The Abrahamic Covenant is first stated in Gen 12:1-3 & 6-7. The length of the Covenant is FOREVER in Gen 13:14-17, and EVERLASTING in 17:1-14. It is restated in Gen 15:18-21, and 22:15-18. And said to be IMMUTABLE in Heb 6:13-18. This promise concerns Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob and gives them the whole land of Israel forever.
2. The Palestinian Covenant. Stated in Deut 30:1-10, it reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant and gives Abraham and the children of Israel title deed to the land promised Abraham. The context of Deut. chapter 30 is extremely important. Deut 28:63-68 and 30:1-3 state that:
a. Israel will be removed from the land and scattered among all peoples from one end of the earth to the other because of unfaithfulness, Deut 28:63-68.
b. Then there will be a repentance of the scattered children of Israel, Deut 30:1-3.
c. The Messiah will return, Deut 30:3.
d. The children of Israel will be restored to the land promised Abraham, Deut 30:5.
e. They will not only be converted as a people, but as a NATION, Deut 30:3-6. (as in the New Testament, in Rom 11:26-27). (The Millennium begins with the whole Nation of Israel converted).
f. The enemies of Israel will be judged, Deut 30:7.
g. Millennial blessings are promised to the restored and converted land of Israel, Deut 30:8-9.
h. This context describes in a nutshell what all the passages in Scripture teach about the Second Advent, regathering of Israel and 1000 year Millennial Reign of Christ!
Secondly, "Israeli" is just an adjective, that means "of Israel", just like "Irani" means "of Iran" and "Pakistani" means "of Pakistan". The adjective "Israeli" is just an English word form that refers to the inhabitants of the Land of Israel. This adjective could have been used any time after the modern land of Israel was established in 1948, to refer to the individuals who live or were born there.
Prior to 1948, as today, the noun "Israelite" was a valid term for any descendant of Abraham through Jacob. But, the English ADJECTIVE "Israeli" was not a valid term until 1948, when Israel was "born in a day" (Isa. 66:8), and had inhabitants to refer to by the term "Israeli".
And, now to answer why the "East" seems so dominant in the Scriptures:
1. The land of Israel has the Mediterranian Sea to its West, desert to its South, and nations that have historically been relatively friendly to its North.
2. Israel's enemies and the nations that took Israel captive have historically been to the East of Israel.
3. The children of Israel faced East, toward the rising Sun to tell directions, and East became synonomus with the "front". When traveling, the Sunrise in the East, was like a compass, orienting travelers for the days journey.
4. God commanded the first "Tabernacle", used by Moses and the Exodus Generation in the desert, in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, to face toward the "East".
5. In Matt. 24:27, Jesus described His Second Coming "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. And in Mal. 4:2, the Second Advent is described as the "Sun of righteousness" arising "with healing in his wings".
The first time the word "East" is used in the Bible is in Genesis 2:8, where God planted a garden "eastward in Eden", and in verses 10-14, we find that it was in the Middle East, just Eastward of the land of Palestine, when the Assyria, Ethiopia, and the Euphrates river are mentioned.
The term "Middle East" is a modern phrase where the nations at the Eastern end of the Mediterranian Sea are viewed by the citizens of the "Western World".
It is amazing to think about how these terms "Middle East", and "Western World" have come into existence, as though the "Middle East" is the center of the world.
Adam & Eve lived in the Middle East. Their line of Godly descendants through Noah and Abraham, and all the way to Jesus lived in the Middle East.
All Bible prophecy that is still future concerns the Middle East.
The next event on the Jewish prophetic calendar is a seven year Middle East peace pact between the Jews and their Arab neighbors, negotiated by a man who is accepted by the whole world as a benign dictator.
The future Great Tribulation revealed in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, and referred to by Jesus in Matthew Chapter 24 is centered in the Middle East.
The future Millennial Reign of Christ on this present earth is centered in Jerusalem, see Ezekiel Chapter 34, 36:8-15, and verses 24-38, and chapters 37 and 39, for example.
God has centered world history around the Middle East from the beginning to the end.
Amazing! The most powerful example that God and His Word are real is the history of the nation of Israel and what is going on in the Middle East today!
1 Cor. 10:1-11 even states that the history of Israel is an example for us so that we can avoid the severe discipline that came upon them in Old Testament times.
I pray that this fully answers your questions, and by all means, if you have further questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them.
Yours "in Christ",