What's in a name?

What's in a name?


What’s in a name?

An age old question with many answers. We will look at one aspect of the question.

Proverbs 22:1

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.


Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.


It’s easy to see that a name is not just what we call a person for the sake of identification. A persons’ name is also reflective of their character. If we were to say that someone had a good name, we are intending that to mean that they are of a good reputation. A persons’ name is in regard to the character of the person we are addressing.

We could say many things regarding the personality of a person, or maybe some of the attributes that they exhibit. All of these may in part reveal some aspects of the persons’ life. However, none of these would be the persons actual name.

This week around the globe many are studying, or preparing to study, the book of Exodus. In Hebrew the name of the book is “Sh’mot.” I ask that we look at something as we prepare to study this book of Scripture. What we call something, or someone, will greatly influence how we look at them and how we receive them. One example of this is, if we were speeding in our car and another car pulls along side of us and someone in that car is trying to tell us to move off of the road, what would you do? How would you respond? Now follow the same scenario with an unmarked police car that has lights flashing and someone inside in a police uniform. In the first scenario we didn’t respond appropriately because we didn’t recognize the authority of the police officer, so we did not view them as a police officer, nor did we call them a police officer. In the second scenario, we did recognize them as an officer and responded accordingly.

What does all that have to do with what a book is called in Hebrew? When we say “exodus” in reference to Scripture, that is exactly what we think of. If that is our focus then that is all we will get out of the book of Exodus. Now, while that is a great thing not to be taken lightly, it is not the emphasis of the book.   

Sh’mot is the Hebrew word for “names.” The book starts out “ Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.” So, is the book just about the names of the children of Israel? No. Remember, name means character. Sh’mot reveals the character of the children of Israel, their struggles, their bondage and yes, their redemption.

More importantly, it reveals the character of YHWH! The LORD our God! Our Father told Moses at the burning bush that He would reveal Himself to His people and that He would deliver them and redeem them. Moses then asks a very interesting question. “Who do I say sent me?” The people had been in bondage and in slavery long enough to forget the Name and Character of the One they were supposed to be serving and worshipping.

What was the reply? We often hear “I am that I am” in Hebrew this says EHYEH ASHER EHYEH. What does that mean? Ehyeh is a form of the word “Hayah” which means to exist or to be (a short definition). To say it simply YHWH says to tell those who are in bondage that when it comes time, I will BE in all their situations and I will Be all that they will need! What an awesome declaration! Because of this Scripture many have called upon YHWH as “I am”. While this would not be wrong, however, the conversation doesn’t stop there.

Examine the Scripture in the context it is given in Exodus 3. Moses asks “Who shall I say sent me?” The Father answers tell the people that I will be with them and that I have sent you to them. That is the beginning of the answer but at this point the question isn’t really answered. Moses was given a fact concerning the Father. This is much like saying that He will never leave you or forsake you. That is true, it is a promise, He will do what He said, it is comforting to us, but that’s not His name. It is one part of a promise to His children.

Let’s look at it, I will break the verse down in parts for emphasis.

Exodus 3:14-15

·         (14)  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh):

·         and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

·         (15)  And God said moreover unto Moses,

·         Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel,

·         The LORD (יהוה)

·         God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you:

·         this is my name

·         for ever,

·         and this is my memorial

·         unto all generations.


Moses is told in verse 15 of the above text that YHWH (Yud-Hey-Vav- Hey), which is the God of your fathers has sent me to you. Then He answers the question that Moses asked. THIS is my name, and a memorial for ALL Generations! The Father may reveal many things regarding His Character or what He will do for us, but when asked directly HE said MY NAME IS YHWH. We see many things in Scripture that He is called upon by, and none of them are wrong. But what is HIS name, and His character.

This reiterated later in Exodus chapter 6.

Exodus 6:2-3

(2)  And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD:

(3)  And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

We see in Exodus 6:2 that the Father says “I am the LORD”. Here is something to understand if you have a KJV Bible. Whenever you see “LORD” all in CAPS it is the 4 letter name “יהוה”.

Because it is translated differently in two subsequent verses we don’t think about it. In verse 2 it is translated as LORD and in verse 3 it is translated as Jehovah we look at it differently. In fact both times it is stated here it is in fact “יהוה”.

             We see many names for our heavenly Father, but when asked what He wanted us to call Him, what did HE say? Even in other Scriptures we see this used in conjunction with another aspect of who He is or what He is going to do. It would be like saying “YHWH that____” or “YHWH who is ________” or even “YHWH of ______”. One example of this is “Adonai Tz’vaot” which is translated as “Lord of Hosts”. It is actually written as YHWH of Hosts.

If you look at the meanings of the Paleo-Hebrew letters you will that the first letter of the Name is a Yod. A yod stands for “Hand” meaning the hand itself and all of the actions that it does. The second is a Hey. Hey means to behold a great thing and is reminiscent of the breath of life. It looks like a man with his arms raised in worship. The third letter is a Vav (or Waw). It looks like a spike or a tent peg. The meaning of the letter is “to add to”. And lastly the Hey is repeated.

If you were to take the meanings of these it would say something like “the hand that beholds a great sight (the breath of life) and adds to behold a great sight (the breath of life)”. Whether you agree with me or not on that, I do think that we can all agree that in Exodus all of the world saw the hand of God move and bring His people to a mtn. for the purpose of them beholding Him. Even as Yeshua our Messiah had spikes driven through His hands so that He could draw us near to Him, so that we would behold Him, we see the prophetic implications of the Name.

            This is in no way a complete study of this subject. It is something that I hope will set you on a path of study for yourself though. Whenever you look at, study or read from the book of Exodus, I hope you will look at it differently. I hope that you will look at “Sh’mot” and everywhere you read in it, you will see the nature and Character of a loving Father whos desire is to reveal Himself to His children as He redeems them and draws them out of the bondage, slavery and the ways of the world. Do you find it any coincidence that it is in the book “Sh’mot” that the Father gives His instructions to His children on how to live a life that is pleasing to Him (loving Him) and that shows love for our brothers as well?  

Until next time,