God, Observations

#MakeBabyNamesMeanSomethingAgain

I hope that this is a hashtag we can all get behind. Let me explain.

When you read through the book of Genesis, you are introduced to a lot of people. I mean, seriously, person after person after person after person. It is after all the beginning of the story of everything and everybody, so it makes sense. But there are a lot of names.

The cool thing about the names in Genesis is that you’re told what most of them mean. They weren’t naming their babies after just what sounded cool or after people they knew (especially in Adam and Eve’s case). Most of the time, the babies were named after the situation surrounding their birth or a name was given by God for a specific reason, or the name communicated something (Gen. 4:1, 25; 16:11; 21:3; 25:25, 26; 29:32-35; 30:6-20; etc.).

The fact that a name communicates something in God’s eyes is clearly seen when He renames people. Abram becomes Abraham (signifying God’s promise), Sarai become Sarah (again signifying God’s promise), and Jacob becomes Israel (signifying God’s promise and Jacob’s transformation).

In western culture we usually name children after someone else. This (in part) explains the preponderance of Bible names. For example, my name is Forest in part because my dad wanted a cool, natural name, and in part because I have a few great grandfathers with the name as well. Likewise, my wife is named Lori because her mother met a young girl named Lori and loved the name. From my Greek side of the family I know that their firstborn sons are often named after their paternal grandfather.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. I plan on naming my children after people. Naming a child after someone as a memorial or remembrance still carries a deep, personal meaning. And, I know there are cultures that still name children like they did in the Old Testament. A good friend of mine who is Nigerian once explained to me how children are named in his culture and it’s very similar to what we see in Genesis.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter and it’s unlikely that western culture will change in this area. But, if we can get this hashtag trending, you never know what will happen.

Names don’t always mean much to us, but they still mean something to God. Peter and John, in front of a Jewish council in Acts 4 explained, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12; see Mt. 1:21). He’s even given us a name that we can be unashamed of and glorify God with: Christian (1 Pet. 4:16).