Names are very personal, and many have a great deal of meaning behind them. Parents often name their children after loved ones or someone who has been an inspiration in their lives. For instance, my grandfather, father, and oldest brother all share the same first name. But it is not just in keeping the memory of loved ones alive or in showing love and respect; many names are given to describe time or place of birth, physical characteristics, birth order, or other family preferences.
Many languages over time found ways to incorporate genealogy within the family surname. And the Hebrew language, among others, was very descriptive in naming people. Atarah, meaning “crown” was the name of a minor character in the Old Testament, the wife of Jarahmeel. The name Beulah means “married” in Hebrew and is used to refer to the land of Israel in Isaiah 62:4. The name Daniel means “God is my judge”, and the name Elijah means “my God is Yahweh”. Enoch, one of only two people who has not suffered death to this day, means “dedicated”, and Gabriel, one of the angels talked about by name in the Bible, means “God is my strong man”.
The Bible also tells us that God named several people, and in the Aramaic and Hebrew languages, these names are very descriptive. In Genesis 16:11, an angel appears to Hagar, who had fled from Sarah after harsh words were spoken, “And the angel of the LORD said unto her, ‘Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.’” Ishmael means “God hears”. In Genesis chapter 17, we find the story of God speaking with Abram, and God told him that he would be called Abraham from that point on because he would be the father of many nations. Abram means “high father”, while Abraham means “father of many”. He also told him that his wife Sarai, meaning “my princess”, would be changed to Sarah, meaning “lady, noblewoman” because as verse 16 says, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” After changing their names, God went on to tell Abraham in verse 19, “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were told they were to have a child, with Sarah being 90 years old and Abraham being 100: Isaac means “laughter”.
The name John is an English version of the Hebrew name ‘Yochanan’ meaning “God is gracious”, and was the name chosen by God as Gabriel told his father in Luke 1:13-17, “But the angel said unto him, ‘Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’”
God also made sure that Mary and Joseph knew what to name His only Son. In Luke 1:26-33, it is written, “Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, ‘Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what matter of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom, there shall be no end.’” The angel also appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary was with child, and the son she gave birth to was to be named Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-21)
The name Jesus, which is Yeshua in Aramaic, a contraction of the name Yehoshu’a, means “Jehovah is Savior”. The title ‘Christ’ which was given to Jesus means “Anointed” or “Chosen One” in Greek and is equivalent to the Hebrew word “Mashiach” or “Messiah”. How wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father made it clear just by giving us the name of His Son what He had in store for all of us who will believe upon the name of Jesus!
And let us not forget the name of our Father. The name Elohim is the plural of Eloah, meaning Gods. It means “The Supreme God; the Creator; Mighty and Strong”; it indicates the relationship of God to man as Creator. (Gen. 17:7; Jer. 31:33) The name El or Eloah means “mighty, strong, prominent”. El Shaddai means “God Almighty” or “The Mighty One of Jacob” and can be found in Genesis 49:24 and in Psalms 132:2,5; indicating God’s ultimate power over everything.
The name Jehovah (Yehovah), also translated as Yahweh, is considered the only proper name of God and means “Self-existent or Eternal One”. When translated ‘God’ it is used with the name Adonai, meaning “Lord”; thus Adonai-Jehovah would be Lord God. It is often translated LORD in the Bible, to distinguish from Adonai, translated as Lord. (Gen. 15:2, 8; Deut. 3:24; 9:26 and others) Jehovah is often combined with other names to give us the various attributes and characteristics of our Heavenly Father. Jehovah-Elohim is a combination of God’s proper name and the title Lord, indicating that He is Lord of Lords. El-Olam means “Everlasting God”, because He is without beginning or end, free from all constraints of time, although within our understanding, as in Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
When Hagar saw the angel of the LORD in the desert, she realized that God saw her in her anguish and distress, and gave him the name Jehovah-Roi, meaning “God of Seeing”. Jehovah-Rapha means “The LORD Who Heals” as in Exodus 15:26, “If thou wilt diligently harken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and to keep His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.” And David called God Jehovah-Rohi, meaning “The LORD Our Shepherd” (Psalm 23) when he realized that God had the same relationship with him as David had in caring for his sheep and providing for their every need. Jehovah-M’Kaddesh means “The LORD Who Sanctifies; Makes Holy”, because God alone can sanctify us and make us holy. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
My two favorite names for our Heavenly Father include Jehovah-Jireh, meaning “the LORD will Provide”, as indicated in Gen. 22:14 when God provided a ram to be sacrificed in the place of his son Isaac. The second one is Jehovah-Shalom, meaning “The LORD Our Peace”, the name given by Gideon in Judges 6:22-24, “And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, ‘Alas, O LORD God! For because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, ‘Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”
Holy scripture has given us all the information we need to understand our Father and His will for our lives. Just looking at the descriptions of His character through the names used for Him, we can see the love and care He has, as well as His expectations for His children. And the ultimate sacrifice that He and His Son Jesus gave for our salvation is shown not only in His word but in the various names we use for them every day. So the next time you call on the name of Jesus, or on our precious Jehovah, think about what those names mean and feel the security found in being a child of the most High God.
Grace and blessings on your path,