Thursday, September 20, 2012
BSD Blogging: What's In a Name?
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.