Back in Bible times, names were extremely significant. Parents named their children very strategically to reflect each child’s destiny, characteristics, birthplace, or even their own emotions in that season. Joseph named his sons Manasseh, which means “God has let me forget all my troubles and my family back home,” and Ephraim, which means “God has made me a success in the land where I suffered.” Adam and Eve named their kids “Hairy” and “Supplanter.”
Sometimes God gave parents the names he wanted them to call their children. He told Joseph to name Mary’s baby Jesus, which means “Jehovah is Savior.” He told Sarah to name her son Isaac (“laughter”) and Hagar to name her son Ishmael (“God has heard your affliction”).
God also changed people’s names at times. He changed Abram’s name to Abraham, from “Father is Exalted” to “Father of Multitudes or Nations.” Sarai (“quarrelsome”) became Sarah (“princess”). God renamed Jacob (which means “supplanter” or “deceiver” and actually translates into “James” in English) Israel, or “he who struggles with God and overcomes.” Some translate Israel as “God fights” – as in, he fights for his people.
Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi (“pleasantness”) renamed herself Mara after losing her husband and two sons. Mara means “bitter,” and she wanted her name to reflect that after all she’d been through. Ruth means “compassionate friend,” and she became just that to her mother-in-law when she remained by her side after their season of loss.
Names were a big deal in Bible times. They were prophetic, which is why, in many cases, God changed someone’s name. His will for each person is always good, and at times he’d essentially erase the old name and replace it with a new name that held a new or more positive meaning.
I believe names can be and are still prophetic today.
Did you know Donald means “proud chief?” Know any Donalds who might fit that description?
Kanye means “tribute.” Justin means “righteous” – and, in recent months, Bieber has certainly made it clear he is trying to live by biblical standards. Chris Pratt is another celebrity who has become quite vocal about his faith, and his name means “one who carries Christ.”
My parents named me “strong, virtuous and honorable.” I’ve always loved the meaning behind my name, which my parents didn’t have a clue about when they chose it. If they had, they probably would’ve been going more for “strong” than “strong-willed,” which is what they got. 😉 (And do you know what makes a person strong? Trials. I don’t love that part. I have to hang on to James – ahem, Jacob – 1:2-3.)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.James 1:2-3 NIV
My six-foot-seven brother’s name means “great.” My great-grandpa’s name meant “farmer” and he raised turkeys. I once babysat someone whose name meant “warlike.” He attacked me with a Super Soaker and went on to join the military.
Are you getting this? Can you see how amazingly prophetic names can be?
God often uses names to speak to me in my dreams at night. If I notice a really random person popping up in my dream or several different people with the same name, I know God is probably trying to tell me something. I’m usually taken aback when I look up the meaning of a name and realize just how relevant the meaning was to my dream or to something God has been speaking to me. Names can be so telling!
Now, if you happen to be named Mara or Esau, don’t freak out. (Maybe your middle or last name has some redemptive meaning!) Check around to see if there might be an alternate meaning to your name (I tend to stick with Nameberry, but there are other more biblically-based resources) or if there’s a similar name in the Bible that resonates with you. I was named after my great-grandma Anna, so that’s a character I often look to for a Biblical example. Remember that, no matter what, God calls you beloved, beautiful, and friend.
He calls all of us these things and more! And someday when we get to heaven, he will give each of us a new name.
God knew each of us before we were born, and so often, even our names prove that. Your name is significant, and you are significant to God. ❤️