Wednesday, February 9, 2011


As I mentioned yesterday, names often carry meaning and while I do not believe God is at work when every child is named, it is clear from the names in the Bible that He often inspired parents to choose a specific name. I provided the examples of Adam, Joshua, David, and Jesus as evidence. On the other hand, it is unlikely that God would pre-ordain children who would turn out as complete opposites to have the same name For example, the actor, John Wayne, had the same name as the serial killer John Wayne Gacey. A biblical example of contrast is two of the women named Mary; Mary, out of whom Jesus was born, had the same name as Mary Magdalene, out of whom came seven demons (Matt. 1:16; Mark 16:9).

Methuselah (Hebrew: מְתוּשֶׁלַח / מְתוּשָׁלַח) means "when he dies, it shall be sent." If one did not know who he was, his name would be considered strange, if not bizarre, but his name was extremely providential. Extra-biblical tradition records that he died in 1656 (Anno Mundi, after Creation), at the age of 969, seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood. According to Shlomo Yitzhaki (1040 – 1105), better known by the acronym Rashi (RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), Genesis 7:4 should be understood to mean "the Holy One delayed the Flood specifically because of the seven days of mourning in honor of the righteous Methuselah.

Melchizedek (Hebrew מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק malḵ-i ṣédeq) means "king of righteousness." In Genesis 14:18-20, he is introduced as the king of Salem ("King of Peace"), and priest of El Elyon ("God Most High"). He gave Abraham bread and wine, blessed him, and received tithes from him. The writer of Hebrews confirmed this in Hebrews 7:1-2, and he added that Melchizedek had neither a human father or mother (v. 7:3 - neither did Jesus until He was born of Mary about two thousand years later). He also wrote, "Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made as high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20).

Peter was another example of a Bible character whose name had a special meaning. His birth name was Simon, son of Jona, but his nickname was Peter; Peter is from the Greek petros meaning a small stone, such as those used to stone someone (he was obviously very hard-headed - Matt. 16:22-23). In John 1:42, Jesus named him Cephas (again, a small stone). There is some confusion caused by Matthew 16:18, because the KJV appears to say that Peter (petros) is the rock (petra) upon whom He would build His Church. Petra means a boulder-sized rock, such as is recommended for the foundation for a man's home (Matt. 7:24-27). More on the importance of names tomorrow, Lord willing.

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