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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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In contemporary Western culture a name rarely possesses significance beyond that of a highly sentimental, perhaps aesthetically conditioned response on the part of proud, doting parents to the intoxicating joy of a new arrival. Not so in the Bible. There a human name typically reflects character and mission anticipated in life, which may turn out for either good or ill. It may embody the spiritual vision of parents for their child's future. In other instances, it is prophetic of future outcomes or events. On the negative side, it may typify a life come to ruin.

The name "Samuel, " for example, may be translated "asked of God" (1 Samuel 1:20 — or possibly, "Name of El" ). When accompanied by the like-sounding Hebrew term sha'al [ 1 Samuel 1:27-28 ).

Isaiah's son's name, Shear-Yashub [ Isaiah 7:3-4 ; 10:21-22 ). This was also the local setting for the well-known prophecy that "A virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanu El [ Isaiah 7:14 ). The name of Isaiah's second son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz [ Isaiah 8:1-3 ). Whether the Immanuel prophecy had any local fulfillment in relation to this second son is a debated subject (cf. Isaiah 8:8-10 ). That it has ultimate messianic significance in connection with Jesus of Nazareth is clear from Matthew 1:22-23 .

On the negative side, Ichabod [ 1 Samuel 4:21 ), recalls a gripping personal tragedy for the high priestly family at a time of national trauma for the entire people of God. The name Nabal [ 1 Samuel 25:25 ).

Finally, the name Adam [ Genesis 3:9 ), becomes universalized in Jesus, the second Adam, through whom his redemptive pursuit of the entire race is consummated (Hebrews 1:1-2 ; cf. Romans 5:12-19 ; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22,45-50 ). That salvific mission is also revealed in the name Yeshua [ Matthew 1:21 ).

Leonard S. Wallmark

See also God, Name of ; Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Name'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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