What does Name, Names mean in the Bible?


Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Name, Names
1. The names of God. See God, p. 299 f.
2. Personal names. From the earliest times the name given to a child was supposed to indicate some characteristic of the person; of the circumstances, trivial or momentous, connected with his or her birth; of the hopes, beliefs, or feelings of the parents. This is evident from the etymologies ( Genesis 21:3 ; Genesis 21:6 ; Genesis 27:36 , Exodus 2:10 , 1 Samuel 4:21 ; 1 Samuel 25:25 etc.), not always reliable, but testifying to the impression that name and facts should correspond. There are many indications of the persistence of this idea. For instance, there is the frequency of names denoting personal qualities, Adin, Amasai, Jaddua, Korah, Solomon , etc.; or pointing to occupations, Asa, Sophereth , etc. Again, an Isaiah ( Isaiah 7:3 ; Isaiah 8:3 ) or a Hosea ( Hosea 2:4 ; Hosea 2:8-9 ) is quite ready to bestow symbolical names on his children; a Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 20:3 ) predicts the change from Pashhur to Magor-missabib , because the latter will more accurately correspond to the surroundings; and the same prophet sums up all his hopes for the future in the title which he bestows on the Messianic King and the holy city ( Jeremiah 23:6 ; Jeremiah 33:16 ; cf. Revelation 19:13 ). The new name promised to the faithful ( Revelation 2:17 ) corresponds to the fresh glory bestowed on him, which differs in each recipient and is known only to himself ( Revelation 14:1 ).
Analogous convictions prevailed among other Eastern nations. Nomen et omen was an influential conception. When a man was wanted to milk a camel, Mohammed disqualified one applicant after another till a man came whose name meant ‘Long Life’; if one of his converts was called ‘Rough,’ he called him ‘Smooth’; he was even guided in his strategy by the names of the places en route (Margoliouth, Mohammed , p. 61 f.).
Generally the name was fixed immediately alter birth, as it still is with the Arabs. The mother usually exercised this privilege (Genesis 4:25 ; Genesis 19:37 f., Genesis 29:32 ff., Genesis 30:6 ff., Genesis 30:18 ff., Genesis 35:18 , 1Sa 1:20 ; 1 Samuel 4:21 , Isaiah 7:14 ), sometimes the father ( Genesis 4:26 ; Genesis 16:15 ; Genesis 17:19 ; Genesis 21:3 , Exo 2:22 , 2 Samuel 12:24 , Hosea 1:4 ff.), occasionally other interested persons ( Ruth 4:17 , Luke 1:57-68 ). Some names were bestowed indifferently on men and women: Abiah , ( 1 Kings 14:31 , 1 Chronicles 2:24 ); Abihail ( Numbers 3:25 , 1 Chronicles 2:29 ); Zibiah ( 2 Kings 12:2 , Ezekiel 8:10-121 ).
Beginning at a fairly early date, there are a moderate number of names derived from the vegetable world: Elah (‘terebinth’), Zuph (‘sedge’), Tamar (‘palm-tree’), etc. The majority, however, belong to more recent documents: Asnah (‘bramble’), Coz (‘thorn’), Hadassah (‘myrtle’), Susannah (‘lily’), Shamir (‘thorn’), etc. Other natural objects are also drawn upon: Geshem (‘rain’), Barak (‘lightning’), etc.; curiously enough, Jorah (‘autumn-rain,’ Ezra 2:16 ) is identical with Hariph (‘autumn,’ Nehemiah 7:24 ). A few, of peculiarly difficult interpretation, point to family relationships: Ahab = ‘father’s brother,’ but the question is whether it signifies ‘uncle’ or whether it is an indication that the child closely resembles his father or is to be as a brother to him. Ahban = ‘brother is son,’ Ahiam = ‘a maternal uncle,’ belong to this class. But Moses , if, as is most probable, of Egyptian origin and signifying ‘son,’ is a shortened form of a theophorous name; cf. Moses, ad init .
Names which have a religious import are more characteristic of the Semite races than of ours, and this is especially true of the Israelites all through their national life. A certain number of those found in the OT have heathen associations: Anath (transferred to a man from a well-known goddess worshipped in Syria, etc.), Ahishahar (‘Shahar [1] is brother’), Baal ( 1 Chronicles 5:5 ; 1 Chronicles 8:30 ), Bildad ( Job 2:11 ), Balaam, Obed-edom (‘servant of [2] Edom’), Reu and Reuel ( Genesis 11:18 , Exodus 2:18 ). Among the earliest clan names are those of animals: Rachel (‘ewe’), Hamor (‘ass’), Caleb (‘dog’), etc. This may well be a survival from a pre-historic age of totemism. In David’s day we find individuals, possibly members of such clans, called Eglah (‘calf’), Laish (‘lion’), Bichri (from becher , ‘a young camel’). And the curious recrudescence of words of this class in and about the reign of Josiah ( Huldah , ‘weasel,’ Shaphan , ‘rock-badger,’ etc.), might be accounted for on the supposition that animal-worship had considerable vogue during that age of religious syncretism (cf. 1618734980_59 ). Names like Hezir (‘swine’), Achbor (‘mouse’), Parosh (‘flea’) favour this explanation. At the same time, it must be admitted that animal-names were in many instances bestowed as terms of endearment, or as expressions of a wish that the child might have swiftness, strength, gracefulness, or whatever might be the creature’s peculiar quality.
There is an important class of compounds in which relationship originally conceived as physical with the god of the nation or clan is asserted: Ammiel (‘kinsman is El’), Abijah (‘father is Jah’), Ahijah (‘brother is Jah’). These compounds ceased to be formed long before the Exile, owing, no doubt, to the sense that they infringed on the Divine dignity. Others now appear, containing an element which referred to the Divine sovereignty: Adonijah (‘Jah is lord,’ like the Phœn. Adoneshmun , ‘Eshmun is lord’), Malchiah (‘Jah is king’), Baaliah (‘Jah is baal ’ [3]). Turning now to the two great groups in which El or Jahweh forms part of the name, it is to be noted that the former had the first run of popularity. From David until after the Exile, Jah, Je , or Jeho is more common. From the 7th cent. b.c. onwards El is seen to be recovering its ground. Altogether there are 135 names in El , and, according to Gray ( HPN [4] , p. 163), 157 in one of the abbreviations of Jahweh [5] xvi. p. 2) has sought to reduce the latter number to about 80]. Abbreviations of both these classes are fairly common: Abi , for Abijah ; Palti , for Paltiel; Nathan , for Jonathan or Nathanael , etc. The nations which were related to the Hebrews acknowledged or invoked their gods in the same fashion: Babylonian and Assyrian proper names containing the elements, Bel, Asshur, Nebo, Merodach , etc.; Phœnician having Ashtoreth, Bel, Eshmun, Melech , etc.; Aramaic Hadad, Rimmon , etc.; Palmyrene, Sabæan, and Nabatæan exhihit the same features.
Special mention ought perhaps to be made of the curious words found in the Books of Chronicles. Ewald observes that they remind us of the nomenclature affected by the English Puritans of the 17th century. They were meant to express the religious sentiments of the Chronicler and those like-minded. Thus we have Jushab-hesed (‘kindness is requited’), Tob-adonijah (‘good is the Lord Jahweh’), Elioenai (‘to Jahweh are mine eyes’), Hazzelelponi (‘Give shade, Thou who turnest to me’; cf. the Assyr. [6] Pân-Bçl-adagal [7] and Pân-Asshûr-lâmur [8]). But the climax is reached in 1 Chronicles 25:4 , where, with very slight alteration, the list which begins with Hananiah reads, ‘Be gracious unto me, Jahweh! Be gracious unto me! Thou art my God! Thou hast given great and exalted help to him who sat in hardship. Thou hast given judgments in multitudes and abundance.’ These phenomena differ from the Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz of Isaiah, in that the latter were formed for the express purpose of symbolical prediction. We have, however, something resembling them in other late documents. P [9] gives us Bezalel (‘in the shadow of God’; cf. Bab. [10] Ina-silli-Bçl , ‘under the protection of Bel’), Exodus 31:2 , and Lael (‘to God’; cf. Bab. [10] Sha-Bçl-at-ta , ‘thou belongest to Bel’), Numbers 3:24 . And Nehemiah 3:6 has Besodeiah (‘in the counsel of God’).
From about the close of the 4th cent. b.c. it was a common practice to call children after their relatives (Luke 1:59-61 ). When we read such a list as this: Hillel, Simon, Gamaliel, Simon, Gamaliel, Simon, Judah, Gamaliel, Judah , we get the impression that the grandfather’s name was more often adopted than the father’s (cf. To 1:9, Luke 1:59 ; Jos. [12] Ant . XIV. i. 3, BJ v. xi i. 21). To the same period belong the Aramaic names Martha, Tabitha, Meshezabel (Bab. [10] Mushizib-ilu ), and those with the prefix bar , of which we have many examples in the NT. Foreign names abound in Josephus, the Apocrypha, and the NT. In some instances a person has two separate designations: Alcimus, Jacimus; John, Gaddis; Diodotus, Tryphon , etc. ‘Saul, who is called Paul’ ( Acts 13:9 ), is a typical case. In some of the examples the reason for the second choice is obscure; in others there is an obvious similarity of sound or meaning. Double names were now frequent: Judas Maccabœus, Simon Zelotes , etc. Non-Jewish names were substituted for Jewish: Jason for Jesus; Simon for Simeon (Deissmann, Bible Studies , p. 315, note).
After the birth of a son an Arab father will adopt an honorific name ( kunya ). If he had been called Abdallah , he is henceforth Abu Omar , or the like. There is no trace of this custom in Heb. family life, but the idea of a distinguishing and honourable surname is not altogether wanting; see Isaiah 44:5 ; Isaiah 45:4 , Job 32:21 , and some of the familiar double names. It is also possible that the Heb. original of 1 Chronicles 8:9 signified ‘I gave him the surname Birthright.’ And the sense of Sir 47:6 is ‘They gave him the surname The Ten Thousand.’
3. Place Names. The majority of these were no doubt fixed by the tribes whom the Hebrews dispossessed. From their great antiquity and the alterations to which they have been subjected, it is sometimes impossible to determine the meaning. Many places, however, got their designation from a salient natural feature, a well ( beer ), a fountain ( en , in En-gedi ), a meadow ( abel ), a vineyard ( karmel ), woods ( jearim ), in Kirath-jearim ), a hill ( Gibeah, Gibeon, Ramah ), trees ( Bethphage, Bethtappuah, Anab, Abel-hasshittim, Elah, Allon-bacuth ); from some circumstance belonging to the history or legends of the locality, an encampment ( Mahanaim ), a watch-tower ( Migdal, Megiddo, Mizpah ), a village ( Hazer ), a temporary abode of shepherds ( Succoth ), a place of refuge ( Adullam ), a vision ( Bcer-lahai-roi ); from the clan which dwelt there ( Samaria ). Of the fifty-three names of animals in Gray’s list (pp. 88 96), twenty-four are applied to towns or districts. On the totem-theory this would mean that the clan bestowed the name of its totem-animal on the place of its abode. Other names evidently imply the existence of local sanctuaries, some of which must have been pre-Israelite: Beth-anath, Anathoth, Bethel, Gilgal, Kedesh-naphtali, Migdal-el, Migdal-gad, Neiel, Penuel, Beth-shemesh . Almost all the compounds with Baal belong to this class: Baal-beer , Bamoth-baal , B.-dagon , B.-hamon , B.-hazor , B.-meon , B.-perazim , B.-sha isha , B.-tamar . One, Baal-judah (the correct reading of 2 Samuel 6:2 ; cf. 1 Chronicles 13:6 ), is clearly of Heb. origin, Baal here being a name for Jahweh. Special interest attaches to the names of two clans in the S. and centre of Palestine, Jacob-el and Joseph-el , mentioned by Thothmes iii. ( c . 1500 b.c.) in his inscription at Thebes. Corresponding with these forms are Israel, Ishmael, Jezreel, Jabneel, Jiphthah-el, Jekabzeel, Joktheel , in the OT. The el of the termination was the local deity, invoked (Gray, p. 214 ff.), or declared to have conferred some boon on his worshippers (Meyer, ZATW [14] , 1886, p. 5).
J. Taylor.

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