Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More than a Label - What's in a name 1

Home Grown Rust

So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. Hosea 1:3-4

When I was in third grade, I didn't like my first name at all. There was no reason why – I just didn't like it. I asked my mom why she named me Phillip, and why two l's in the name? Her answer surprised me. "I don't know," she said. She explained that she and my dad had thought of several names for a boy. The one they had almost decided on was – Brian Anthony. My dad wasn't all that happy with the middle name, so there still was some discussion on the middle name. They had chosen not to name me after anyone else in the family, for fear that someone my feel slighted if there name was not chosen. My mom had a long uncomfortable labor. Sometime after I finally arrived thay asked her for my name. She quickly told them, so say the doctor and the nurses, Phillip Brent. She was later surprised to hear my name. Neither she or my dad had ever suggested either name as one for their son. My great-grandmother told me the same story several years later. It must be true.
When my wife, Karen and I were expecting our first child, we spent some time looking at names. We too chose not to name them after any other family members. We would choose them for how they might sound, what the initials would look like. There was no thought on the meaning of the name. If anything, Michael Brian, was named due to a cute kid on TV. Mikey - from the Life cereal comercial. "Mikey likes it."

NAME — a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, or thing, a body or class, or any object of thought is designated, called, or known. 
- a label or designation that sets one person apart from another.
In today's culture the above definition is quite adequate. Names are chosen for the way they sound. Perhaps because they are unusual or popular names. In the Bible, however, a name was much more than that. Names for persons, places and things were created from words that had their own meanings. The people of that time were very conscious of the meaning of names. A name expressed something of the very essence of what was being named. There was a connection between the name and whatever was named. To know a name was to know something about that to which the name belonged.

The naming of a child was very important to the parents in biblical times. The child's name could reflect the circumstances of the birth. The name could reflect their expectations for the child, the parents' feelings, their personal feelings, or their graditude to God.
  • The name Isaac iyshaq = laughter to reflect the "laughter" of his mother at his birth Genesis 21:6
  • Esau was named esaw = felt rough "hairy" because of his appearance.
  • Jacob was named  yaaqob  heel catcher."supplanter" because he grasped his brother Esau’s heel Genesis 25:25-26
Another popular custom in biblical times was to compose the child's name by adding a shortened form of God's name as the first of last syllable. El or Ya (Je) were used. The parents also might wish to dedicate their child to God, thus choosing a name to reflect this.
  • Elisha, which means "God is salvation"
  • Daniel, Dan = judge add El - "God is my judge"
  • Jehoiakim, Je is God hoiakim = raises up -"the Lord has established"
  • Isaiah, Jah has saved -"Yahweh saves."
Sometimes, God in His providence, would give the name of the child to the parents. At other times God would direct the parents to name a child a name that would be a message or warning to His people.

  • The prophet Isaiah was directed to name one of his children MaherShalal-Hash-Baz, meaning "speed the spoil, hasten the prey." This name was let the people know of the certainty of an Assyrian invasion of the nation of Judah. Isaiah 8:3-4
  • Hosea was instructed to name a daughter Lo-Ruhamah, "no mercy," and a son Lo-Ammi, "not my people. These names referred to God’s displeasure with His people Hosea 1:6-9 .

Why mention any of this at all?  Well names are quite important in the Bible.  now when you are reading the Bible and come across a name that is impossible to pronounce, you will want to look up that name in a Bible dictionary, or check it out in Strongs, or a reference to People in the Bible.  The name might possibly tell you a lot about the person or place.  You will soon see the the providence of our sovereign God.  That name of the person or place was probably given for a very good reason.  Biblical names were often more than just a label.  Try looking up the meaning of the name Jezreel in the opening verse.  You will begin to see how the sovereign God is in control of all things. You may also see how much fun it is looking up those names I can never pronounce.

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