What's in a name? We get a new name, and Jesus does too

Most of us love to look up the background to our names. Personally I used to enjoy looking up the meaning of my name, Elizabeth, though I was always bemused about it. The name means "oath of God." I was not saved so I thought that the name was a big miss, because I was far from God. Until I turned 43, that is, and then I was saved.

In the bible when babies were named it was a big deal. The Hebrew parents tried to give a name they thought would capture the essence of the baby's character or capture what they hoped their baby would become. The bible verse usually took some time to let us know what that name meant.

Last names are fun to look up too. Surnames place us, identify us with a tribe, or sometimes, a profession. In modern times we've forgotten that the last name Smith used to be short for blacksmith, or Cooper mean maker of barrels. In the bible there was Alexander the Coppersmith, (2 Timothy 4:14), and Simon the Tanner, (Acts 9:43, Acts 10:32).

Alternately some in the bible times were known by their father's name, such as James the son of Zebedee (Matthew 4:21) or Levi son of Alphaeus, who was also known by his profession, hated as it was: Levi the Tax Collector. When the assembled at the synagogue in Jesus's hometown listened to Jesus they were astonished, and said "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?" (Mark 6:3). This was offensive, a way of saying 'isn't he the bastard?' Because they did not say 'Isn't this the son of Joseph?' Instead they said the son of Mary, naming the mother. This was not done. You were always the son of the father. This is the place where Jesus said a prophet is without honor in his own hometown.

Mary Magdalene was known as the Mary of the town of Magdalene and of course our own Jesus was known as Jesus of Nazareth.

There were nicknames in the bible, also. James and John were nicknamed Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder. We would translate that as "hot heads." Simon was called Peter for rock.

Adam was tasked with naming all the animals (Genesis 1:19) and Adam also named Eve (Genesis 2:20).

Hannah humbly and fervently asked of God that he would grant her a son. He did, and she named him Samuel, which means 'asked of God'. "She called his name Samuel, "since she had asked the Lord for him" (1 Samuel 1:20).

In Genesis 35:18 we have a case of a name change done by the father- "And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: Son of my sorrow: but his father Jacob called him Benjamin, "Son of my right hand."

Methuselah meant 'he has sent his death'. And you thought YOUR name was depressing! Literally it meant that God would not send death until Methuselah died. Methuselah was the longest living person in history, 969 years. God's patience is great! When Methuselah died, the flood came within the year. (Exodus 5:21-32).

Sometimes when someone is given a new name in the bible, it means that they have a new identity. It can work to the negative or to the positive. For example, when Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar, he captured many of the youth to bring back to Babylon with him, including "Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah." (Daniel 1:6). One way to demoralize and assimilate prisoners was to give them a new name. This was in effect giving them a new identity, and cutting them off in every way from their old identity.

As for Daniel and the three friends.... "And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego." Each Hebrew name had been carefully chosen by the parents, and to try and separate them from that identity, they were given names of false gods.

Jamison-Fausset-Brown Dictionary:
"He gave names--designed to mark their new relation, that so they might forget their former religion and country ( Genesis 41:45 ). But as in Joseph's case (whom Pharaoh called Zaphnath-paaneah), so it was in Daniel's. His name means God my Judge, the theme of his prophecies being God's judgment on the heathen world powers, was given the name indicative of his relation to a heathen court ("Belteshazzar," that is, "Bel's prince"). To Hananiah--that is, "whom Jehovah hath favored." was given the name Shadrach--from Rak, in Babylonian, "the King," that is, "the Sun"; the same root as in Abrech, inspired or illumined by the Sun-god."

Mishael--that is, "who is what God is?" Who is comparable to God? was given Meshach--The Babylonians retained the first syllable of Mishael, the Hebrew name; but for El, that is, GOD, substituted Shak, the Babylonian goddess, called Sheshach (Jeremiah 25:26, 51:41), answering to the Earth, or else Venus, the goddess of love and mirth; it was during her feast that Cyrus took Babylon.

Azariah--that is, "whom Jehovah helps" was given the name Abed-nego--that is, "servant of the shining fire."
Thus, instead of to Jehovah, these His servants were dedicated by the heathen to their four leading gods; Bel, the Chief-god, the Sun-god, Earth-god, and Fire-god. The names thus at the outset are significant of the seeming triumph, but sure downfall, of the heathen powers before Jehovah and His people. (source)

Esther is the Persian name (star) of the Hebrew youth named Hadassah (means myrtle), taken to live at Xerxes's court. (Esther 2:7)

Unlike Joseph, Daniel, and the three friends who were given new pagan names by evil kings to help them forget their identity as one of God's chosen ones and to force a new identity in the pagan courts, sometimes God Himself gives a new name to mark the beginning of a new identity.

There are several examples of examples of people in the Bible who were given new names by God:
Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5)
Sarai to Sarah (Gen 17:15)
Jacob to Israel (Gen 32:23)
Oshea (or Hoshea) to Joshua (Num 13:16)
Simon to Peter (Mt 16:17-18)
Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9)

There are several verses in the Bible that speak of us receiving a new name in Heaven: Rev 2:17, Isa 62:2, Rev 3:12.

Revelation 2:17- "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’"

Isaiah 62:2- The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give."

Revelation 3:12- "The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name."

When we enter the kingdom above, three names are again written upon us; the name of God, the name of the heavenly city, and Christ's heavenly name.

But get this--

JESUS gets a new name too!?!? Is it the name written on His thigh, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," (Revelation 19:16)? Is it a completely new name? "His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself." (Revelation 19:12). What is this new name? We don't know. MacArthur explains the verse:

"Christ's own new name. What does that mean? Well the name of God or the name of Christ means all that He is. We know Christ, we know Christ but we only know what we have read, we haven't seen Him. The moment we see Him His persona will take on utterly new dimensions. And whatever we may have called Him and understood by the name will pale in the reality of what we see. And there will be a new name to describe Him. And He'll give us that new name and we'll be privileged to call Him by it."

Robin Schumacher wrote, "At present and incommunicable and known only to God, to be hereafter revealed and made the believer's own union with God in Christ. Christ's name written on Him denotes he shall be wholly Christ's." (source)

O, the joys keep coming! We will receive a new name from Christ and He will privilege us to hear His new name we may call Him by! It gets better and better, doesn't it? The best is yet to come. We have that glorious moment to look forward to, and whatever His new name will be, I know that it is only by His blood that my sinful lips may utter it. He cleanses and purifies, and though I long for that Day, for now I am all joy to call Him JESUS.


  1. And because of the indwelling Holy Spirit we now have a new nature and the thing to be overcome is the old, washed in the blood and able to do His will.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, Great post and encouraging word.
    A little anecdote. When my first son Josquin Gabriel (The Lord establishes the messenger of God)was born, I was telling his mother about the French (from Algeria) tradition of presenting the new born a silver cup with his/her name engraved on it. It must have sounded like a wish and a bit of nostalgy from a forever by gone childhood memory when one hour later, a friend knocked on the door with a present for Josquin. Wouldn´t you know! There was a response from the Lord, a small silver goblet with Josquin´s name inscribed on it. I never mentioned anything to this lady about what kind of present I would like. We have an amazing God that delights in blessing his children. To me, the little things, presents, surprises of our Heavenly Father are more precious than all the big miracles (not to discount or belittle them) because they reveal his intimate knwowledge of us his children and his tender loving ways toward us. These seeming little affectionate gestures remind me of the attention a bridegroom pays to this bride and are an expression of his response to her devotion. If only unbelievers knew what they are missing when they reject the Savior! Jean-Louis.

  3. Hello Elizabeth. Just wanted to mention that your reference to the name of Jesus written on his thigh is actually NOT written ON his thigh but on his robe AT his thigh (Rev. 19:16).

    How I love the last paragraph of your commentary. The words resonate in my heart of how exciting the 'seeing' and the 'speaking' with Jesus will be...by any Name!


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