What’s in a Name?
By Wendy Wippel
Ever noticed how often God changed people’s names? Abraham and Sarai (both of whom acquired a “Heh”, when God changed their names, “Heh” being the Hebrew letter that represented the Holy Spirit.). Jacob, who became Israel, meaning “Prince of God” . Peter, who went from Petros (pebble) to Petra (boulder). Conclusion: names matter. They carry a spiritual promise. Apparently from Adam on.
We all know God himself named Adam:
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.”
God made the man and called him Adam (the word for man being Adam), and let him name everything else. But names matter. And it would seem Adam had a little help with picking names, or at least some divine inspiration. Because the names that followed Adam’s carry the biggest spiritual promise of all.
Genesis 5 gives the genealogy of the first family, beginning with Adam and continuing down to Noah, at which point the population of earth kind of got a fresh start. Specifically, in order, the genealogy names:
Adam, we already got covered. It means “man”.
The meaning of Seth’s name is revealed in Genesis 4:25: And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”
Seth means given. “Allotted. Appointed.”
From here on out, however, you have to dig a little deeper to figure out meanings. (I use Blueletter Bible’s online Interlinear/concordance and it’s awesome . (Click on the root words for more depth of meaning.) Lots of fun.
Enosh means “mortal one” from a root word that means desperate, sick, wicked, incurable.
Kenan, from its root word means sorrow, grief, lamentation (see Ezekiel 2:10, 27, 32) We get the English verb to keen, meaning to cry in a way that represents absolutely inconsolable grief, from the Hebrew root word for Kenan.
Mahalalel, from its root words. means “the God who is to be praised” See Proverbs 27:32 and look at the Hebrew words in a concordance that gives you the actual word for more examples.
Jared means “to descend, to come down” See Genesis 18:21, and look at the Hebrew words in a concordance that gives you the actual word, like BlueletterBible.com for more examples.
Enoch, from its root word means “to teach, to train up”. See I Kings 8:63.and look at the Hebrew words in a concordance that gives you the actual word like BlueletterBible.com for more examples
Methuselah literally means “his death shall bring” a prophecy of Methuselah’s death occurring simultaneously with the onset of the flood.
You can do the math for yourself using the lifespans of the patriarchs in Genesis, and it does.
For another example of Methuselah being used to mean “his death shall bring” see Psalm 43:3 in a concordance that gives you the actual Hebrew words, like BlueletterBible.com
Lamech is the one word that carries over into English. Lamech means to lament. to despair. To lose all hope. It’s a combination of the Hebrew prefix “le” meaning “toward” and “muth” meaning “death.”
Toward death. I think we get the idea.
Noah, as implied in Genesis 5:29: And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”, means a place of comfort, quiet, rest.
So what’ the spiritual promised here in this list of names?
The one I promised you? Just read the names in order:
is given, appointed, allotted
desperate, sick, mortal
The God who is to be praised
shall descend, come down
his death shall bring
those who despair, lament, and mourn
a place of quiet, comfort, and rest.
I have taught this a dozen times and I still have chills.
We serve an awesome God. One we’ll meet someday soon in the sky.
And how cool is it that when we do, we’ll have a new name given to us by the Lord himself. (Revelation 2:17)
I’ve never liked my name much. Wendy was not a name with a weight with a weight of tradition behind it (J.M. Barriemade it up for the book Peter Pan from a word he used to describe his daughters “chums” “fwendies”. And for some reason (Probably just because it was the sixties, and nature names were the rage) classmates and teachers alike seemed convinced that it was actually supposed to be “Windy”. Making matters worse, my mom paired my first name, Wendy, with the middle name Gale (as opposed to Gail) which brought me my share of grief on the playground.
And then married into Wippel. Wendy Wippel. Which actually gets guffaws from time to time.
Heavy sigh. Yep. I’m ready for an upgrade. Aren’t we all!