Destiny Is In The Name

by:  Lonnie Lane

God often changes people’s names as He changes their destinies. The names of certain persons in the Bible seem to define their character or the unfolding of events in their lives.  Some person’s names personally signify in the unfolding of Israel’s history so much so that we wonder if there wasn’t some prophetic input from the Almighty Himself in what they were named, even as babies. As we have discussed before, when we see names in the Hebrew it opens up a whole new dimension to the character and nature of person, place and event. We see it repeatedly in Scripture. Let’s look into a few significant persons to see how this name thing played out and while we’re on our journey, I’m going to share some entirely unrelated but interesting pieces of info. Consider this a hodge-podge of Biblical miscellany.

We call the first human whom God created Adam (in Hebrew pronounced Ah-dahm), but it wasn’t a personal name God gave him, the name meant human being or person or man in the sense of mankind. God refers to both Adam and his wife as Adam in the Hebrew and in that name lies a hidden meaning of how blood will play a part in the unfolding drama of redemption. If you haven’t read it already, you may want to read, “Why We Don’t Need the Blood Anymore” for more on the name Adam and its relation to blood. 

We will move on somewhat chronologically to what numerous names mean and how they impact the Biblical story. Early on we meet the man who instigated the building of the Tower of Babel. He is identified as Nimrod. While the Bible says about him that “He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Genesis 10:9), this was a bad dude. Nasty as the day is long.   The name Nimrod comes from the Hebrew verb marad, (Hebrew root: m-r-d) meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes n-m-r-d or “Nimrod.” The meaning then becomes “The Rebel.”  It’s possible that “Nimrod” may not be this character's actual name but is rather a derisive term for a rebellious person or the head of a system or people who acted in rebellion against the only true God. From his story though, it was seem he’s the instigator. Or then again, maybe his mother was and she put him up to it. Hmmm. So we see it’s not just the good guys who get named in the Bible. We can often find hidden information about someone just by finding out what their names mean which may be quite apparent in the Hebrew but which our translations don’t allow for.  

Now let’s move onto the one who in Hebrew is known as Avrahahm Aveenu, Abraham our Father. His original name was Avram (Abram), which in Hebrew is pronounced Avrahm  (b’s and v’s in Hebrew are the same letter differentiated by a dot which isn’t always there, so unless you’re familiar with the context, its easy to see how one is used rather than the other by translators.) Avram means “exalted father” with no explanation for that name, but we do know that God changed his name to Avraham to comply with his God-given destiny.

 A few facts about Avraham just because it’s interesting, noting also that numbers can also be significant in the Bible to reveal facts not necessarily made evident in the text itself. According to Jewish tradition, Avraham was born under the name Avram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation, which would make it about 1800 BCE.  In case you’re trying to get those numbers to make sense, the Jews count from creation forward while the Christian (secular) world would count from Yeshua’s birth backward (B.C.) to Avraham. Add them together and you find that Yeshua was born approximately 3,748 years after creation, except that the monk who made those calculations made an error and it looks like Yeshua was more likely born in 4-6 B.C, making it more like 3,744. If we add together 3,744 to 2011 we are at about 5,755 according to that math. We know there are some discrepancies and errors in calculating the years as the world has gone by several calendars over the millennia. However, as of this writing in October of 2011, the Jewish year of 5772 from creation has just begun on Rosh Hashana, the supposed date of the beginning of the world as well as Adam and Eve’s birthday.   

If in fact Avraham (Abraham) was born in 1948 from the birth of the world, it was that same number year, 1948 A.D. that marks the rebirth of Israel as a modern State. Even if the dates aren’t exact, nevertheless, God knows what we’re counting and I kind of like the idea that Israel’s rebirth is a mirror date of Avraham’s birth, if indeed that was when he was born. Lots of suppositions but fun to speculate.

The names of certain persons in the Bible seem to define their character...

Now on to the names. Avram means exalted Father, while Avraham means Father of (many) nations or father of a multitude. But there is a deeper meaning perhaps in the change. God added the letter hay, or "h" to Avram's name to make it Avraham and changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah, a letter taken from His own name of YHVH.  It is interpreted to be a sign that Avraham and Sarah were to be His children, to obey Him, and as far as they could, to be like Him. From then on God became an integral part of their very identities, just as they would be “in God” as they lived out their lives. They and God were now an inextricable a part of one another.

Additionally, by changing Avraham’s name to include His own name, God confirmed and sealed His promise to him. Even though he was still childless when God renamed him, what God promised him was now a part of his name, which is to say his identity, to himself and to others as he evidently let himself be known as Avraham from then on. I would imagine, however, that his very name was often a source of grief and embarrassment to him, and to Sarah who evidently felt responsible for their childlessness. But God had promised and for us who are on the looking-back-and-seeing-it-happened side of the story, we can take into our own identities God’s promises and stand in faith that despite what it may look like, and for a long while, God will fulfill His promises!

In that sense, God changes our own names as He changes us to believe Him and trust Him. I once took a Hebrew class in which we were to ask God to give us a new Hebrew name just for us. I asked Him and He indeed gave me one and told me the meaning and why it was mine (No, I’m not sharing it; it’s special between me and Him.). He periodically calls me by that name and it is precious to me and reminds me of how He sees me, especially at time when I need to hear it. Perhaps you too would like to ask God for His name for you. It may just give you a whole new sense of yourself in His eyes, because He sees us as He intends to make us, as in the fulfillment of our destinies in Him. How encouraging is that? Now that we are His, our destinies are in His wonderful Hands, as is the fulfillment of His promises.

Moving on to Sarah, her birth name was Sarai which means basically “my princess” and has the sense of her place in her own family (as in the “my”) which, of course, was Avraham’s family as she was his half-sister: “She actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:12; also see :2,5). Her name has a sense of her being cherished, doesn’t it? Maybe she was the only girl. My grandmother called my first daughter “My little princess.” Perhaps I’m projecting.  In replacing the “i” with the “h” to make Sarai into Sarah, her name means more of being princess over the nations of which her husband is to be the father. She is, then, to be the mother of nations and kings.  (See Genesis 17:15Genesis 17:16). There are some scholars that agree that God placed upon them both a certain dignity by adding letters from His own name, in which is carried His eternal power and Sovereign Lordship.

As we know Avraham and Sarah moved on to the Promised Land. And despite God telling Avraham, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 my emphasis), he took his nephew Lot with him. According to at least one source I found, Lot’s name in Hebrew is related to a “goral” which means a pebble or a small stone which is used in casting lots. (Numbers 33:54; Jonah 1:7). The choosing of a lot was a method the Hebrews used to determine God’s will (Proverbs 16:33). Perhaps taking Lot with them had something to do with choosing a lot as to whether he should go with them or not. Whatever the reason, we know him as “Lot.” Lot makes the choice to move to Sodom when he and Uncle Avraham separate because the Lord has blessed them so much there’s not enough grazing land for both their flocks. Whether Lot used his ‘lot’ again to choose or just chose by what looked good to him, he made a bad choice. In time, he was taken captive in a war between several nations. Avraham finds out and intends to rescue his nephew.


Now if you thought of Avraham as a meek, mild mannered shepherd, unable to own up to his own wife being his so she is taken by Pharaoh, such is not the case. When Uncle Abe goes after Lot, he is warring against the armies of several nations. He already has armed and ready his own army of
"318 trained men born in his household" (Genesis 14:14). "Trained men" is the Hebrew noun
 hānīk meaning "armed retainer." The term applied to a servant whose major function is to provide military assistance. So Avraham has a trained army because evidently he saw the need for such men and no doubt employed them on a regular basis as needed. These are not just shepherds who grabbed a spear or a sling in hopes that it would do the trick. These are men who were very able-bodied men quite capable of trekking north some 125 miles in order to rescue Lot and his family by waging an attack against incredible opposition and coming out as the victors.  

One other thought on Avraham, Jewish writings consider that to call Abraham "Abram" is to reduce him to his prior self and significance. So it would seem, once God moves you into a new phase of your life, don’t look back. Become the person He is leading or causing you to become!

While Avraham’s original name received an alteration from God, when God changes the name of his grandson Jacob (Hebrew: Ya’akov) to Israel (Yisra’el), he is called by both which are two different names with two different meanings. While it is true that Israel represents a higher calling than Jacob, there are certain qualities as Jacob that he cannot possess as Israel. So we still maintain the name of Jacob for both the third Patriarch and for the Jewish people as a whole. Israel might represent a higher stage in Jewish development than Ya’akov, but the greatness of the Jewish people lies in that there are both Jacob and Israel qualities within each individual person.

Still, that having been said, it remains puzzling as to why even though God tells Ya’akov He’s changing His name to Israel twice in Genesis 32:28 and 35:10, he doesn’t seem to be called Yisra’el but continues to be known as Ya’akov. Whereas Avram and Sarai took on their new names immediately, even after the wrestling with God incident, he never fully takes on the name God gave him and often then both names are used in the same sentence. For example, “When it was told to Jacob,“Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed” (Genesis 48:2). In examining the instances such as these, it may be that when he is acting in his natural self he is Ya’akov, but when called upon to, say, speak for God or respond prophetically, he acts as Israel.

Do you know the meaning of your name?

In fact, it isn’t until the wrestling incident that he finally calls God His own God and not Abraham and Isaac’s God. It has been suggested that when he was asked what his name is during his wrestling with Angel of the Lord in Genesis 35, he saw his own character in his name as a deceiver and supplanter and when he owned up to it, God gave him a new name. However, I would like to come to Ya’akov’s defence. His name derives from the Hebrew verb aqab, meaning taking by the heel which comes from the noun for footstep or foot imprint (Psalm 89:51). While I have not done a thorough investigation, it seems that Christian sources will add “supplanter” and “deceiver” while Jewish sources are far more kind to him. Let’s remember that there was a prophesy before they were born making Ya’akov the twin who would inherit his father’s blessings. What took place was only what God had prophesied and intended in the first place. So Ya’akov wasn’t supplanting (replacing, taking the place of, superseding, displacing, succeeding, ousting, dethroning, unseating or bumping) Esau from a place that was rightfully his; he didn’t want it. It may be that God knew Esau’s character even before they were born and knew he would not value the blessing from God to Avraham’s heir whereas Ya’akov valued it highly which was pleasing to God (See Romans 9:13).

In the end, when Ya’akov wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and refused to let Him go until He blessed Him, his name is finally changed to Y’isra’el when the Angel tells him, Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). Israel means contended or persisted with God. Ya’akov isn’t really wrestling with any angel here, but the Angel of the Lord who is really a pre-incarnate Yeshua because every time in Scripture the Angel of the Lord arrives, He speaks in the first person and says what only God has the right to say. It clearly says here that Ya’akov was “striving with God” in the wrestling and the fact that he held on for the blessing indicates that he seemed to know with Whom he was wrestling. That the nation of Israel today also holds onto God, wrestling as it were for the blessings God promised to Abraham, makes her also a contender with God! May God bring the full blessings He has promised to Israel quickly and soon. Amen.

This story isn’t just that Ya’akov held on till he got the blessing he always wanted though, but one that follows him through the difficulties of his life, as he works through what is required of him, as a man who is above all motivated by wanting God and what He has said was his. He wants what God wants. In the story of Ya’akov, we see how God blesses and protects His people even when we don’t deserve it or when we find ourselves in situations that entangle us in a web not entirely of our own making. God sees us through our own weaknesses and brings us to the place where He can bless us and bring us into what He intended for us all along, to use each one of us in our own unique way to do our part in building His Kingdom on earth. 

Now on to Moses. In Hebrew his name is pronounced Mosheh. However it’s not just that simple. The root of the name means to draw or draw out in Hebrew. His adopted Egyptian mother is recorded as naming him: “She named him Mosheh, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water” (Exodus 2:10). Was an Egyptian princess likely to give her child the name belonging to their Hebrew slaves? Most doubtful. The origin of Moses name has long been a subject of dispute. Several thoughts have been proposed: Mo is the Egyptian word for water or possibly saving out of water. The Egyptian word for child or son is mes, or mesu, as in the Pharaoh named Ramses: child or son of Ra (Ra being the Egyptian son god).  So could Moses be “water child” or “son of the water”? On the other hand, the Hebrew verb masha, also means to draw out, though it is only used once in Scripture other than in Exodus 2:10, when David says of God, “He drew me out of many waters” (Psalm 18:16). But since it is unlikely that an Egyptian princess was speaking the language of Egypt’s slaves, he was probably named an Egyptian name and when he became involved in Israel’s history, his name is likely to have been adopted into Hebrew.  

Moses, by the way, is the only person in the Old Testament to whom Yeshua likens himself, as being the prophet whom Moses said would come who would be like himself. (See John 5:46; compare Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19; Acts 7:37.) Like Moses, just to name three issues, Yeshua entered God’s presence on the top of a mountain where he reflected the glory of God he was able to endure; Yeshua gave a new commandment to the people, just as Moses gave the original commandments; Both spoke the words of God to the people without compromise. 

Do you know the meaning of your name? Or is there another name which God may give you if you ask Him?  Knowing yourself what name would you give yourself if you were to become all that you hope to be or that you believe God would lead you to become? Let God give you or you give yourself a vision of a destiny for yourself in God the is defined by your new name.   

Please watch for Part 2 of this investigation of names soon to come.

 

 

Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2011. 

 

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

 

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

A few facts about Avraham just because it’s interesting, noting also that numbers can also be significant in the Bible to reveal facts not necessarily made evident in the text itself. According to Jewish tradition, Avraham was born under the name Avram in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation, which would make it about 1800 BCE.  In case you’re trying to get those numbers to make sense, the Jews count from creation forward while the Christian (secular) world would count from Yeshua’s birth backward (B.C.) to Avraham. Add them together and you find that Yeshua was born approximately 3,748 years after creation, except that the monk who made those calculations made an error and it looks like Yeshua was more likely born in 4-6 B.C, making it more like 3,744. If we add together 3,744 to 2011 we are at about 5,755 according to that math. We know there are some discrepancies and errors in calculating the years as the world has gone by several calendars over the millennia. However, as of this writing in October of 2011, the Jewish year of 5772 from creation has just begun on Rosh Hashana, the supposed date of the beginning of the world as well as Adam and Eve’s birthday.   

 

If in fact Avraham (Abraham) was born in 1948 from the birth of the world, it was that same number year, 1948 A.D. that marks the rebirth of Israel as a modern State. Even if the dates aren’t exact, nevertheless, God knows what we’re counting and I kind of like the idea that Israel’s rebirth is a mirror date of Avraham’s birth, if indeed that was when he was born. Lots of suppositions but fun to speculate.

 

Now on to the names. Avram means exalted Father, while Avraham means Father of (many) nations or father of a multitude. But there is a deeper meaning perhaps in the change. God added the letter hay, or "h" to Avram's name to make it Avraham and changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah, a letter taken from His own name of YHVH.  It is interpreted to be a sign that Avraham and Sarah were to be His children, to obey Him, and as far as they could, to be like Him. From then on God became an integral part of their very identities, just as they would be “in God” as they lived out their lives. They and God were now an inextricable a part of one another.

 

Additionally, by changing Avraham’s name to include His own name, God confirmed and sealed His promise to him. Even though he was still childless when God renamed him, what God promised him was now a part of his name, which is to say his identity, to himself and to others as he evidently let himself be known as Avraham from then on. I would imagine, however, that his very name was often a source of grief and embarrassment to him, and to Sarah who evidently felt responsible for their childlessness. But God had promised and for us who are on the looking-back-and-seeing-it-happened side of the story, we can take into our own identities God’s promises and stand in faith that despite what it may look like, and for a long while, God will fulfill His promises!

 

In that sense, God changes our own names as He changes us to believe Him and trust Him. I once took a Hebrew class in which we were to ask God to give us a new Hebrew name just for us. I asked Him and He indeed gave me one and told me the meaning and why it was mine (No, I’m not sharing it; it’s special between me and Him.). He periodically calls me by that name and it is precious to me and reminds me of how He sees me, especially at time when I need to hear it. Perhaps you too would like to ask God for His name for you. It may just give you a whole new sense of yourself in His eyes, because He sees us as He intends to make us, as in the fulfillment of our destinies in Him. How encouraging is that? Now that we are His, our destinies are in His wonderful Hands, as is the fulfillment of His promises.

 

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