Choosing Baby Names: Declaring their Destiny
Do you know that even before you get to hold your baby for the first time, there is already a very powerful act that you can do, which can shape their futures? Both fathers and mothers in the Bible knew this principle, largely because God strongly ingrained it in Hebrew culture: the power of choosing baby names.
Indeed, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, chances are, you will start to try out countless baby names and see how they sound. Many expectant parents will even prepare both boys’ baby names and girls’ baby names well before the time they can find out the baby’s gender! Of course, there may be many traditions that some couples may adhere to when it comes to choosing baby names, such as naming babies after close relatives or other loved ones. But for the Hebrews, the name speaks of the child’s destiny: in other words, whatever the parents decide to name the child, they are calling forth that particular destiny.
Surely, there are baby names in the Bible that seem to have been given due to other reasons, too. For example, Jabez’s mother named him so because she underwent extreme pain while delivering him. Jacob’s son Benjamin was also named by his mother in the midst of a painful childbirth: she named him “Ben-Oni,” which means “son of my sorrow.” Interestingly, his father renamed him “Benjamin,” which means “son of my right hand.” And that’s exactly what Benjamin became! After Rachel died, Jacob took solace in his younger son’s company, and he is even portrayed in later chapters as refusing to let Benjamin go with his brothers to buy grain in Egypt, because he was so afraid of losing him (after his older brother Joseph was lost)!
It’s interesting to see just what importance the Lord Himself gives to names. There are many occasions in the Bible wherein He is seen giving a person a new name. For example, for Jacob, whose name means “deceiver,” the Lord gave him the name “Israel,” which means “prevailing prince.” Indeed, instead of living up to his identity as a deceiver, which Jacob did rather successfully for the first couple of decades of his life, he has truly risen up to his new identity in God.
Simon, whose name means “reed,” was renamed “Peter,” which means rock. The name change is significant because Jesus gave it to him while He was still doing His earthly ministry; and when Jesus was handed over to be crucified, Simon denied Him three times, and was broken-hearted at his own failure. After the resurrection, Jesus meets up with Peter and John, and we see Peter with shame written all over him. But Jesus talks to him tenderly, knowing that Peter would live up to his name soon, even it did not seem to manifest yet! And indeed, in the Book of Acts, just after the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Peter is portrayed as one of the main leaders of the church, being the first to stand up before three thousand and proclaiming forgiveness in Jesus’s name—this same guy who denied Jesus was now proclaiming Him to everyone who would listen!
When we, as Christian parents, search for the perfect baby name for our bundle of joy, we are not merely looking for what sounds nice or macho or unique. Indeed, in addition to our heritage as Christian parents of having the Lord teach our children for us, we are given the privilege of asking the Lord what destiny He has in mind for our babies, and we can speak those destinies into being by giving them baby names that declare these destinies. Truly, we have a God who calls the things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17), and truly, what He calls truth will soon catch up in reality!