Life, Theology & Discipleship with Wes Woodell

The Significance of Names in the Bible

 I believe the primary purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth was one of reconciliation. That is, Jesus’ primary purpose – His reason for coming into this world – was to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10). I  believe seeking and saving the lost is an umbrella statement that covers everything else Jesus said or did.

I do not believe His purpose was ultimately to preach the kingdom, fulfill Old Testament prophecy, perform miracles, or glorify God. When I say those things weren’t His purpose ultimately, what I mean is that they don’t represent the end goal Jesus had in mind. He did do all of those things and I in no way mean to minimize their importance, but the ultimate purpose behind each of those actions was the redemption of the world and restoration of harmony between souls lost in darkness with the God of light. Defeating sin and death in order to restore fellowship between a fallen world and the Father – eternally – was the end goal for Jesus.

Have you ever thought about what the name “Jesus” means?

Names are significant in the Bible, and they have a variety of functions.

For instance, a biblical name could record some aspects of a person’s birth. Moses was given his name because his mother drew him out of a river (Exodus 2:10). His name literally means “to draw out.” Jacob and Samuel also serve as examples (Genesis 25:6; 1 Samuel 1:20).

Biblical names sometimes expressed the parents’ reaction to the birth of their child. Examples include Isaac (Genesis 21:6) which means “laughter”, and Abimelech (Judges 8:31) which means “my father is king.”

Biblical names were sometimes used to secure the solidarity of family ties. An example of this is found in Luke 1:59 when John the Baptist was nearly given the name of his father.

Biblical names could be used to communicate God’s message. The prophet Isaiah named his first son Shear-jashub which means “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3). This was in line with God’s message to the Israelite people that they would be reduced to a mere remnant of what they once were, and would eventually return from exile to the promised land.

Biblical names were also used to establish affiliation with God. All the names ending with -jah or -el (and there are many of those) are saying “with the Lord” or “with God.”

Then you have the giving of a new name. This was used to establish authority over another, or to indicate a new beginning or new direction in a person’s life. For instance, Pharaoh changed Joseph’s name to Zephenath-paneah when Joseph entered his service (Genesis 41:45), another Pharaoh changed the name of the Jewish king Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:24). While in Babylonian captivity, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were forced to change their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:6-7). Name changes indicating a new life direction include Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Cephas to Peter (Mark 3:16), and some would say Saul to Paul (Acts 13:9).

Here’s the really interesting part: names were often used to express the nature and function of a person. They were used to indicate a person’s purpose in the world, and the greatest example of this type of naming is Jesus. Check it out:

Matthew 1:20-21
20 But after [Joseph] had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

“Because He will save people from their sins.”

The name “Jesus” literally means “the Lord saves.”

What’s His primary purpose? What’s the overarching mission that every action falls under?

Just look to His name – “to save people from their sins.”

18 Replies

  1. Jim Woodell

    His mission was juxtaposed in his name.


    Thank you very much for this analysis of biblical names. I do believe that the church should have the names or tittles God gave it in the holy scriptures. Some churches have been personalised and named after human beings; they cease to be the church of Christ because no one has the authority to change the names God gave to his church. What is your comment?

    1. I’m curious – what names do you believe God gave His church that we are to use?

  3. doreen allM

    The body of Christ

  4. Tyler

    His Name is very important. According to Acts 4:12 there is NO OTHER NAME that will save you. And guess what? That Name wasn’t Jesus! In fact the Name of the Father is contained in the Name of the Son. The Father’s Name consists of four Hebrew letters. Yod Hay Wah Hey. Pronounced Yahuah. The Name of the Son is Yahushua . Phonetically (Yah Hoo Wah) and (Yah Hoo Shoo Wah). Notice how the two Names are similar? Yahuwah YAHUshuWAH. Now proclaim it! Yah Saves!

  5. Nicole

    The Church of Jesus Christ…of Latter Day Saints 🙂

  6. Bayonle

    Profound, What a good write up, more grace!

  7. Well, thanks for your words above, but I can’t ignore the one thing most important, but false in the text you wrote. The Jewish Messiah’s name was Yeshua. “Jesus” is the Hellenized-Anglicized form of “Yeshua”. “Jesus” doesn’t have a meaning, while Yeshua means “Salvation”. Yeshua had never heard of the name “Jesus” in His lifetime. I’m not sure why this is translated wrongly during time, but a name is important. I think most Christians underestimate the value of a name. My gut-feeling says, Satan is responsible for changing the name we use for Yeshua, through out society. By using the name Jesus we don’t use the name Yeshua; what could have great impact. I we say ‘In the name of Jesus’, we’re not saying ‘In the name of Yeshua’ and we miss the power that’s in the TRUE name of Yeshua. In 2 Tim 3:3-4 we are warned about false doctrine, false teaching.. I think this is one of the false teaching.

    Jesus receice His name in all three ways that great men receive their names on earth:
    1.BY BIRTH: jesus receive Hi name by birth,through inheritance from His Father: read, Heb 1:1-4. His name is greater than any king,president,or tribal leader and any angel in Heaven.
    2.BY ACHIEVEMENT: jesus also receive Hi name by achievement because he conquered all the power of enemy. read, col 2:15
    3.BY CONFERRING: jesus also received His name by having it conferred upon Him.read phil 2:9-11

  9. Prayforus

    Thanks for the significance of the name of Jesus. I want also to know why are there two seats if God is one?

    1. Philip

      There is a bigger picture here that I think you may be missing, think about the apostles names, my name is Philip Daniel and I just turned 33 and jesus came into my heart like nothing ive ever known before. If you feel you are truly called rise up the time is now! I love you all! Many are called few are chossen! 517-945-3027 believing is everything!

  10. rc

    How could the patriarchs have received Hebrew names when Hebrew hadn’t even been invented yet when they lived? This hints at the theory that they were not real people, but rather literary creations from a later time.

  11. The name Nabal meant fool. Do you think his parents new it meant fool when they named him . It is in Samuel .

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