How Bible People Got Their Names

In Bible times, people were named by their parents at birth but they also occasionally received new names from God. The meaning of the name was always very important in the selection process.

Newborns received names that reflected a variety of meanings:

  • commemoration of an event close to the time of the birth
  • how the mother was feeling at the time of the birth
  • the apparent personality of the infant
  • a prophetic revelation of the destiny of the child
  • a family name passed down from previous generations

When God renamed a person, the new name was often reflective of their destiny or new, more mature character traits. For example, the name Abram meant “exalted father.” When God promised Abram that he would father so many descendants that they would outnumber the stars and the sand on the seashore, God called him Abraham, which meant “father of a multitude.”

Choosing a Name For The Right Reasons

Today’s society often talks about naming a child something that local bullies won’t tease them about, or making sure that you don’t name your child the same thing everyone else is naming children this year. But the biblical precedent is to value the meaning of the name over things like social trends.

For example, the names Joshua or Daniel are very common, and your child may end up in a classroom with one or two others of the same name. But the positive meaning and legacy of great men of God with each of those names is a powerful motivation to choose them anyway.

On the other hand, the name Josiah may not be common, but it has a positive meaning (“whom God heals”) and the Israelite king Josiah has a great story: a young king who started his reign at eight years old and followed God so well that it was said of him, “Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since” (2 Kings 23:25).

Now that’s a rich Christian heritage in the whole story and meaning of a name! And that’s why we created Christian Meaning of Names. May God bless you and yours!