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The Names of God: Part 1

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

We no longer hold names in high esteem as we once did. Back in the day, a name really meant something. In Biblical times, a name was granted as a prophetic expression of what the child would become or achieve in their lifetime. In those days, names commonly identified the character or nature of the person.

Noah for example, means “one who brings relief and comfort” which certainly came to pass after his key role in saving mankind from God’s deluge.  Jesus means “savior,” and Christ wasn’t His last name, but means ‘Messiah,’ or ‘the anointed one.’ Revealing character and destiny, personal names can therefore encapsulate hope for a child’s future.

In biblical tradition the task of naming a child generally fell to the mother. In exceptional cases a name could be bestowed by non parental figures or even directly by God himself. The naming of a child typically took place near birth in the Old Testament and on the eighth day accompanying circumcision in the New Testament. Parents probably don’t think so carefully about naming their children as their forefathers once did.

On a personal note, my old French teacher’s name was Ichabod, little did I know its unfortunate meaning was, ‘the glory has departed!’ Also, my mom shared with me recently, she originally wanted to name me Gideon, but my grandmother talked her out of it. She called our dog Gideon instead and every time I fed him, I thought, ‘there goes the mighty dog of valor!”

A new name speaks of destiny

In scripture, when a person took on board a new role or experienced a radical life change, God granted the person a new name to signify that pivotal moment in time. To use Abram as a prime example, Abram, is a composite of ‘Ab’ meaning father and ‘ram’ meaning exalted. But ‘ram’ may also mean, “he departed,” which is a suitable description of the man who departed his father’s house and left the land of Ur of the Chaldea’s (Gen 12:1).

Later of course Abram became ‘Abraham’ meaning “father of many nations;” and ‘Sarai,’ which meant “princess” became Sarah, “mother of nations.” In the case of Jacob, he became Israel after wrestling with God and man, as Israel does in fact mean, “one who strives with God.” Also note that Jacob can mean ‘supplanter,’ ‘trickster’ or ‘deceitful.’ Clearly these are accurate character traits of the man we are familiar with from the Book of Genesis.

Regarding Jacob’s new name, Israel; the first part of the word Isra means ‘to prevail’ and it also means, ‘great in number,’ which was indeed the promise given directly to him by the Lord (Gen 35:10). Pharoah of Egypt bestowed Joseph a new name ‘Zaphenath-Peneah,’ at his investiture (Gen 41:45). The Hebrew definition of Joseph means, “God adds or increases,” which is certainly fitting as God blessed Joseph tremendously, despite his hardship.

The precise meaning of Joseph’s Egyptian moniker is unknown, but some of the meanings offered are, ‘a revealer of secrets,’ or ‘preserver of life.’ His Egyptian name offers a prophetic significance by a heathen king, as Joseph (being a type of Christ) preserved the lineage of Israel as Governor of Egypt, enabling Christ to be born. For further insight into Joseph and his parallels with Christ, click here.

You have a new name in Heaven!

Did you know the moment you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ you received a new name? Christ reveals this in the Book of Revelation:

Did God change Saul’s name?

The victory of which He speaks, is the victory of receiving Christ. There is no greater victory attainable in this lifetime. There’s a common misconception that God changed the Apostle Paul’s name from Saul to Paul, but the Book of Acts reveals he was always called Saul and sometimes Paul. His name interchanges throughout the Book of Acts (See Chapters 9-13, 22).

Paul is the Latin name for Saul. Some scholars portend Paul changed his name from Saul to Paul to better reach the Gentile population within the Roman region. Some independent accounts describe Paul as being of small stature. Ironically, Paul means, ‘small.’

Peter: From ‘son of a dove’ to ‘the rock’

In contrast, Peter’s name was changed by Jesus to denote the crucial role he would play in the formative years of the church. Peter means ‘rock,’ which was a prophetic utterance by Jesus of what Peter would soon become (Mat 16:18). Jesus initially called Peter, “Simon Son of Jonah.” Interestingly, Jonah means ‘dove’, so Peter’s original name was ‘son of a dove’. The dove was characteristic of Simon’s gentle nature when he betrayed Christ three times but later became ‘the rock,’ who boldly moved in the miraculous, following his Holy Ghost baptism.

God’s names reveal His divine character. In reality, the names and Person-hood of God are inseparable. God uses many names to reveal Himself and His attributes. In doing so, He progressively revealed who He is to mankind. As we the study the names of God together, you will learn more about Him. There are various types of names that God employs, and they can be broken down to five categories. These would include proper names, personal names, titles, essential names and descriptive names. For a description of the 36 names and titles of Jesus Christ, click HERE…

YAHWEH means ‘Lord’

Let’s now turn our attention to the names of God specifically. In considering the various names, titles or descriptions of God in the OT there are three words of basic importance—’ēl, ’elōhîm and Yahweh. The divine name Yahweh is usually translated “Lord” in English versions of the Bible, because it became a practice in late OT Judaism not to pronounce the sacred name YHWH, but to say “my Lord” instead. When the vowels of Adonai were attached to the consonants YHWH in the medieval period, the word Jehovah resulted.

Today, many Christians use the word Yahweh, the more original pronunciation, not hesitating to name the divine name since Jesus taught believers to speak in a familiar way to God.

The influence of the King James Bible on the English language, and the influence of Christianity on Western culture, resulted in the pronunciation “Jehovah” coming to be an accepted English name for the God of the Bible.

The English name “Jehovah” for the God of Israel is a pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, or the four-letter name for God used in the Old Testament. The meaning of the name yhwh may best be summarized as “present to act.” The revelation of the name is given to Moses, “I am who I am or the great I AM” (Exod. 3:14). God is whatever you need Him to be and has the capacity to provide for all your needs.

When God revealed himself to Moses, he did so as a covenant keeping God, i.e., a God who keeps His promises. This has not changed because His promises still hold true today. Yahweh is distinctly the proper name of God and the most prominent. In its purest form it meansLord.’ The name “Yahweh” reveals God’s nature in the highest and fullest sense possible. It includes the meaning of the other names. Yahweh particularly stresses the absolute faithfulness of God and the fact it appears 6823 times in the OT reinforces its’ importance. Often times in scripture, God would reveal himself in different forms, sharing the many aspects of His benevolent nature. Each new revelation of His name provided a new promise we can stand on.

8 Compound Names of God in the OT

  1. Jehovah-Jireh – This name is translated as “The-Lord-Will-Provide,” commemorating the provision of the ram in place of Isaac for Abraham’s sacrifice (Gen. 22:14). The Lord is our provider, He will provide for you. You need to trust Him for your provision. You can rest assured as you sow seed and tithe your income, God will provide for you. Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice, He sees your sacrifice and will honor it.  
  2. Jehovah-Nissi – This name means “The-Lord-Is-My-Banner,” and is the name that Moses called on when he built an altar celebrating Israel’s God-given victory over the Amalekites (Ex 17:15). Isaiah uses the term nissi when speaking of the coming Messiah who is to be the conqueror (Is 11:10; 59:19). A banner was a large piece of cloth attached by one edge to a staff and used by a monarch or leader as his standard in battle. The Lord has His banner draped over you. He has gone before you and won the battle already. Rest in that.
  3. Jehovah-Shalom – This phrase means “The-Lord-Is-Peace,” the name Gideon gave the altar that he built in Ophrah (Judg. 6:24). God has provided us with perfect peace, if our mind remains steadfast on Him (Isa 26:3-4). We are admonished to cast our care, because He cares for us. Christ also left an abiding peace within our hearts. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17). Let peace be your umpire today.
  4. Jehovah-Shammah – This phrase expresses that “The-Lord-Is-There,” referring to the city which the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezek. 48:35). This phrase refers to the city which the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision and testifies of His omnipresence. Our Lord is ever present, in a time of need. He is fully aware of any wrongdoings you may have endured. He said He’d never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). The Holy Spirit is our comforter, and you are never alone if you’re in Christ Jesus. Our God is a just God who’ll recompence any wrongdoing in His way and timing.
  5. Jehovah-Sabaoth – This name, translated “The-Lord-of-hosts,” was used in the days of David and the prophets, attesting to God’s sovereign power in the heavenly realms (1 Sam. 1:3). The phrase “Lord of Hosts” communicates God’s role as a warrior who fights both in the cosmic conflict against divine forces and through human historical events for His people, Israel. Right now, there is an army of angels at the beck and call of the Lord. They seek to enforce God’s bidding in the earth and hearken to the voice of His word (Ps 103:20). God is the Commander in Chief of the heavenly hosts. As a military title, it signifies that God is more than enough for any adversary and our victory is assured!
  6. Jehovah-Rapha (rapha, “healer”) – appears in Exodus 15:26, when Israel is assured that God, their healer, will prevent the diseases of Egypt from affecting Israel. Although the name is only used once in scripture, God was often called upon and praised as ‘the healing One’ (e.g., Ps 103:3; Is 30:26; Jer 6:14 etc.).  Our God has and always will be a healing God. With the name of Jesus Christ in our arsenal, we are able to resist sickness and command it to leave our physical flesh (Mk 16:17-18).
  7. Jehovah-Rohi (rohi, “my shepherd”) – appears in Psalm 23:1. The concept of Yahweh as shepherd is a promise God makes throughput the OT. In the book of the Ezekiel God declares, “I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep” (Ezek 34:15). Jesus reveled He is the Chief or Good Shepherd (1 Pet 5:4, Mt 2:6; Mic 5:2; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 2:25; Heb 13:20). He’s not a hireling shepherd (in it for the money) but cares deeply for his flock. Evidently, He is willing to sacrifice His life for them. Thank you, Jesus!
  8. Jehovah-Tsidkenu – This is the name by which Messiah shall be known, ‘the Lord is our righteousness’ (Je. 23:6; 33:16). We do not advocate a works-based righteousness, but we’re made righteous by the blood of Christ. Any attempt to become righteous by anything we ‘do,’ is a futile and frustrating endeavor. We do good works to honor God because our salvation is already assured. The motive of our good works will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ to gauge if we sought to glorify ourselves or Jesus Christ.

It’s time to use the name of Jesus Christ!

I hope you’ve gleaned a deeper understanding of the names of God. Each time God intervened miraculously in the OT, He revealed a different facet of His being. In each case, it showed His loving heart. He’s all that you need Him to be in your life. God has covered every aspect of your wants and needs because He’s already revealed His willingness to meet them in His various names. Start declaring today, that He is your provider, healer, protector and shepherd! You might think it strange in doing so, but you are declaring God’s everlasting and personal promises to you!

When it comes to our present dispensation, God gave Jesus a name above every name, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).

We’ve been given the divine right to use the name of Jesus Christ which is something none of the Old Testament Saints had an opportunity to do! We are in such a privileged position that we can speak the name of Jesus over cancer, tumors, disease, COVID, depression etc. It’s time to start using the name once more! Speak the name of Jesus over your circumstances…you won’t wear it out!

Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, click here to find out more…

Author- Carl G.M. Joseph

Bibliography:

Raymond B. Dillard, “God, Name Of,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 295–296.

Rachel Klippenstein, “Names of God in the Old Testament,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 295.

Gerard Van Groningen, “God, Names Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 887–888.

Dempsey Rosales Acosta, “Lord of Hosts,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/zaphnath-paaneah/

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