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Bible naming

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

In Bible times, names indicated an individual's character, function or destiny. When someone names another, it is a token of command and authority. In the scripture, the father gives names to his children and to slaves. Adam named his wife and all the animals and the name he gave them became their true name.

By changing the name of Abram, Sarai and Jacob, God expressed His absolute dominion over all men, and His particular benevolence toward those whom He receives into His own. God gave a name, even before their birth, to some whom He called for a great purpose, such as to Jedidiah or Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24,25); to John the Baptist (Luke 1:13); and to the Messiah (Luke 1:31).

Most Bible characters were assigned names either at birth or at circumcision. Originally, the sources of names were limited. Parents drew names from animals like Rachel ("ewe"), Leah ("wild cow"), Deborah ("bee") and Caleb ("dog"); or from plants like Hadassah ("myrtle"), and Tamar ("palm").

Traits of the child often suggested his name, like Esau ("hairy"). Names sometimes sprang from events in the course of a nation, like Ichabod ("the glory is departed," 1 Samuel 4:21), or in the life of the family. Frequently names were changed by events, as when King Mattaniah took the name of Zedekiah under Babylon's regime at Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:17).

Isaiah gave significant names to two of his sons: Shear-Jashub ("A remnant shall return," Isaiah 7:3); and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz ("Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty," Isaiah 8:3).

Hosea also gave symbolic names to his eldest son by Gomer, Jezreel ("God sows" Hosea 1:4); and to his daughter, Lo-Ruhamah ("No mercy" Hosea 1:6); and to another son, Lo-Aammi ("Not my people," Hosea 1:9).

Individuals were frequently more fully identified by appending "son of" to the given name: "Joshua the son of Nun" (Joshua 2:1), "Simon Bar-Jona" ("Bar," means son), (Matthew 16:17). Sometimes a city name was added such as "Simon a Cyrenian" (Mark 15:21). The name of their occupation sometimes further identified an individual, such as Simon, "the sorcerer" (Acts 8:9).

When a person gives his own name to another, it signifies the joining of the two in very close unity, as when God gave His name to Israel (Deuteronomy 28:9, 10). Therefore, to be baptized into someone's name means to pass into new ownership (Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:16; 1 Corinthians 1:13, 15). To forget God's name, is to depart from Him (Jeremiah 23:27).

To be sent or to speak in someone's name signifies carrying his authority (Jeremiah 11:21; 2 Corinthians 5:20). Messiah was given significant names: Immanuel, God with us; and Jesus, Savior (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21, 23; Luke 1:31). In His name, miracles are wrought, as He promised (Acts 3:16; John 14:13, 14). When we act in Jesus' name, we represent Him.

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