There is Something in a Name
A few years ago, I was listening to a Christian teaching where a vague statement was made about one’s name, in that there may be a meaning behind one’s name that might portend a destiny. The speaker also alluded to the fact that one’s name might also convey a positive or negative feeling or aura to people, all subconsciously of course. This teacher went on to say that in Heaven, we will get a new name written on a white stone:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Revelation 2: 17)
The Bible says that God also has named the stars: He counts the numbers of the stars; He gives a name to each of them. (Psalms 147:4)
It got me thinking about names. Is there a significance to naming a child, beyond a traditional family name, or because a parent likes a particular name? Why do they like that particular name?
I picked up a book on names, and the first name in the book was “Aaron”, a Hebrew name which means “light bearer”. I had dated a Jewish man named Aaron who owned a lighting store. I wondered if he knew the significance of his name.
My mother wanted to name me Michelle which is the female version of Michael, a Hebrew name that means “who is like God?”. However, my father named me Madeline, a variation of Magdalene. Magdala was a city on the Sea of Galilee with a tower. The name Madeline can mean “high tower” or “tower of strength”. So here I have two (at the time of my birth) non-Christian, non-Jewish parents who both wanted to name me a name that had a Hebrew origin…..
My maiden name was Burton, a British name meaning “fortified town or settlement”. So Madeline Burton – a tower of strength / fortified town.
My first husband’s last name was Hyatt, another British name meaning “lofty gate”. So, now I am a tower of strength in a fortified town with a lofty gate – sounds like the new Jerusalem:
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21: 10-21)
The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
My second husband’s last name was de León and we know his family was from Spain, so presumably from León. León means “lion” in Spanish. Now we know there were a lot of Sephardic Jews in Spain before the Inquisition, so could de León be short for “Lion of Judah”? So could I be a tower of strength in a fortified town with a lofty gate from the Lion of Judah?
Well, I have since found through DNA testing that I am indeed Jewish at least on my mother’s side. Could the Lord have been telling me something through my names? ( I have told Him on a couple of occasions that I don’t feel like a tower of strength, but I think that’s what He is trying to make me into….)
I propose that sometimes we are named a particular name for a reason.
Let’s see what the Bible has to say about names. From Genesis through Revelation, there is much written about the significance of names. People would name their children a certain name for a reason.
- The angel told Mary to name her son Yeshua (Hebrew for the Greek version we know as Jesus) because Yeshua means Salvation. Salvation was Jesus’ function when He came to earth.
- The angel told Zechariah to name his son Yochanon (Hebrew for the Greek version of John – the Baptist) which means God’s Grace – makes sense since John’s job was to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming. Jesus came because of God’s grace toward us.
- God himself changed Abraham’s name for Abram and Sarah from Sarai. Abraham means “father of many”, while Abram means “exalted father”. Sarah means “princess”, while Sarai means “my princess”. Notice that both name changes “ indicate a step from local to global, or specific to general” (from abarim-publications.com).
- Isaac means laughter. Sarah laughed when she heard she was going to have a baby in her very old age, so that’s what she named him. I imagine Isaac had a life full of laughter.
- Leah and Rachel both named their boys, the 12 tribes of Israel, specific names for a reason. They must have known there was future significance in their names, their destiny.
- When Hannah couldn’t get pregnant, she cried out to the Lord until he “opened her womb”. She named her first son Samuel, which means “God heard”.
- When Lazarus was raised from the dead (Lazarus is the Greek for the Hebrew Eleazar or El’azar), God helped him from death. Lazarus means “God has helped”.
- Deborah was one of the strongest women in the Bible. She was a wife, a prophetess and a judge and went out to war with the men. Her name means “bee”. What do bees do? They make sweet honey, work diligently on a team (a hive) but they can also sting if provoked. Remember Muhammed Ali’s phrase, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”? That was Deborah.
- One of the most significant name changes in the Bible was when Jesus renamed Simon to Peter. It is said that this name was a prophetic sign of the amazing change that Peter would have after Jesus resurrected. As you recall Peter was a paradox of behavior and emotions until after Jesus resurrected and the Holy Spirit came upon Peter with power. He was never the same again. He went from a “pebble” as Simon to a “rock” as Peter.
- Hadassah is interesting. She was renamed Esther, you might have heard of her. Hadassah means “myrtle tree”. You might wonder what a myrtle tree has to do with what Esther did, basically saving the Jewish people from annihilation. I like this translation of Isaiah 55:13:
13 Cypress and myrtle trees will grow in fields once covered by thorns. And then those trees will stand as a lasting witness to the glory of the LORD.
Well, after all these centuries, Purim, the Jewish festival of Esther is still going strong. Esther / Hadassah, the myrtle tree, certainly stands as a lasting witness to the glory of the Lord for her part in God’s deliverance of the Jews from genocide.
The Jewish website, Aish.com states “ A name defines a person’s essence. Choose carefully….. The naming of a Jewish child is a most profound spiritual moment…. naming a baby is a statement of her character, her specialness, and her path in life…… Naming a Jewish baby is not only a statement of what we hope she will be, but also where she comes from.….It is important to choose a name that will have a positive effect, since every time it is used the person is reminded of its meaning.
As I write this, I know two Christian women named Dolores (meaning: sorrows), one who just discovered she has colon cancer and one who just had a heart bypass. Could there be a connection? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t name my child “sorrows”.
My mother was named Mitsouko which is Japanese meaning mystery. I told her that totally fits because after she became a Christian she has unraveled many mysteries of the supernatural.
Let’s look at our current President’s name, Barack Hussein Obama. Barack is a variation of the Hebrew Baruch, which means blessing. Hussein means handsome one. So how would you like to be named after a “blessing” or “handsome one”? Look where he is today. Or would you rather be named “sorrows”?
This is just a brief commentary on naming. I challenge you to research your own name and ask the Lord about its significance. If you are naming a baby, do your homework and think about that child’s destiny. I leave you with this:
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:12-13)