Thursday, September 20, 2012

BSD Blogging: What's In a Name?

Our daughter is expecting a second child in February so there has been a lot of discussion around the family about names for the baby. Since we won't find out its gender until next month, we've been talking about both boy and girl names and how names impact the identity and expectations we put on our children.

Which has made me think about the names in Nehemiah and what they mean. In the Old Testament names and naming are very important.

Beginning with the Garden of Eden where the Lord God brought the animals and birds to Adam so that Adam could name them, the power to name something or someone confirms authority over that thing, animal, bird or person. (Genesis 2:19) God named himself to Moses-- "I am who I am. This is what you say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you." (Exodus 3:14).

Because the name of God is so sacred, and because mankind has no authority over God, the Hebrews in the time of the Old Testament (and the Orthodox today) did not completely spell out the name of God when writing it and use euphemisms when referring to the Name.

In both the Old and New Testaments name changes signify a new identity: Avram ("father of elevation") becomes Abraham ("father of many nations); Sarai ("contentious" or "quarrelsome") becomes Sarah ("princess" or "lady"); Jacob ("supplanter") becomes Israel ("God wrestler"); Hoshea ("deliverer") becomes Joshua ("God rescues"); Hadassah ("myrtle tree") becomes Esther ("star"); Simon ("he has heard") becomes Peter ("rock");  and Saul ("prayed for") becomes Paul ("small, humble").

Here are the meaning of some of the important names we are going to encounter in our study of Nehemiah:

Nehemiah--the comfort of the Lord
Hacaliah (Nehemiah's father)--wait for the Lord
Hannaniah (Nehemiah's brother)--the Lord is gracious
Tobiah-the Lord is good

Nehemiah did personify the comfort of the Lord as he rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem. His father had to wait on the Lord to bring the Israelites out of exile, while his brother brought word of their plight back to Nehemiah which turned out to be God's way of calling him to action. Ezra the priest not only helped rebuild the temple but helped restore the people to their covenant with God.

Two of the enemies of the rebuilding effort are aptly named: Sanballat tried to exert his strength to prevent the rebuilding and Geshem certainly tried to "rain" on the effort! Tobiah was an Ammonite but his name is Hebrew. Tobiah is deceptively named because he is an enemy of Nehemiah and acts deceitfully in trying to discredit him.

Watch out for names in the Bible--their meaning usually points to a deeper truth.


Averill said...

James is Hebrew for "Supplanter" and Michael is Hebrew for "He who is like God" -- G better watch out if he has a little brother!

Averill said...

I should add that the other contender (William Evander) would translate to Strong-Willed Warrior/Good Man. Perhaps equally powerful without being quite so threatening to G's place as elder brother.

Mac said...

A good tip. Names do mean something.

When I casually announced to SWMBO that "Nathan Bedford Forrest McCarty", "Albert Sydney Johnston McCarty" or "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain McCarty" might be good names for our son, she promptly had a nursing note added to her file: "Under no circumstances is husband to be allowed to name child unless wife is awake and coherent!" (The exclamation point was actually there.)

Andy is, nonetheless, named after another gallant officer and Christian gentleman, 2d Lieutenant Fred Andrew Hartman, Jr, USMCR Chip was killed in action on 25 April 1969. Semper Fidelis

Mac said...

Tell G to just remember that the oldest is, by definition, the smartest and the one in charge. (My younger brother and sister never accepted this, so G needs to start early.) 8>)

Jody Harrington said...

Just checked Eleanor Jane = Shining Light/God is Gracious.
I like it!