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Changing Names And Changing People - What Happens When Man Does It And What Happens When God Does It.

Updated on March 30, 2012
Hybrid Tea Rose called "Camp David"
Hybrid Tea Rose called "Camp David" | Source

I once knew someone who decided to change her name because she thought it was not glamorous enough. She was just a teen then, but she wanted to get into acting, and her parents allowed her to change her name to something she thought would be better suited.

She was the same person she had always been, her name simply changed and all who used to call her "A" now called her "B".

Name changing happens every day. When women get married they change their last name from their maiden name to their husband's name because it signifies that the two people are united as one. Often, because of divorce, women elect to change their names back to their previous name signifying that what was once one is no longer.

People change their names in order to protect themselves. It happens often in the witness protection program.

All of these people change their names but they do not change who they are. Their names may be different but they do not become someone different.

William Shakespeare famously wrote, " What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But would it really smell just as sweet? Is there anything in a name?

Name Changes In The Bible

I refer to my Bible whenever I want to get a question answered. I firmly believe that the answer to every question is in there, it is just that sometimes it is difficult to find.

There have been many instances in the Bible where names have been changed. Sometimes names are changed by people. Other times names are changed by God.

To decide whether there was a difference in a name, I examined the people whose names were changed to see if who they were before the name change continued to be who they were after the name change.

The sky at night perhaps the way that Abraham saw it the night when God challenged him to number them and then confirmed that so too his seed would be. (Genesis 15:5)
The sky at night perhaps the way that Abraham saw it the night when God challenged him to number them and then confirmed that so too his seed would be. (Genesis 15:5) | Source

Abram To Abraham And Sarai To Sarah

The first place name change comes up in the Bible is the Book of Genesis. God changes Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah.

In Genesis Chapter 17 verse 3, the Lord says to Abram, "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee."

And to Abraham concerning his wife Sarai, " As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." (Genesis 17:15-16)

After the name change by God, Abram becomes Abraham and Sarai becomes Sarah. They are called accordingly and when their old names are mentioned it is to confirm that their names were changed.

But were they changed as people?

Before Abraham and Sarah's name change, a lot of things occurred. Ishmael was born of Hagar, when they decided to take matters into their own hands.

After their name change, things started to happen. Abraham, according to God's command, circumcised every male in his household. At ninety-nine years of age, he himself was circumcised according to God's command.

The name Abram means 'high father.' God changed it to Abraham which means 'father of a multitude.' After God changed Abram's name to Abraham, Issac was born. From Issac came Jacob and the twelve sons whose children would be known as the children of Israel. The meaning of Abraham's name came true and he did become a father of a multitude. His name was first a prophecy for all to hear and then became a testimony for all to hear as well. Abraham became the name that God so called him.

"Jacob Wrestling the Angel," by Gustave Dore (1855) .
"Jacob Wrestling the Angel," by Gustave Dore (1855) .

Jacob To Israel

God changed Jacob's name to Israel when Jacob wrestled with Him at Peniel.God asked Jacob his name and when Jacob told him, God said: "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."Genesis 32:28 K.J.V.

Jacob's name change is perhaps the most amazing one because it affected a people and still does today. An entire country is named after this man because his children became known as the children of Israel. God reaffirmed Jacob's name change in Genesis 35 verse 9, saying that his name was no longer Jacob but Israel. When speaking of Jacob himself, the Bible sometimes refers to him as Jacob and sometimes as Israel but when speaking of his descendants, he is referred to as Israel. The reason God gave for naming him Israel was that as a prince he has power with God and men and has prevailed. The name is said to mean 'contended with God'. In history, the children of Israel are the only people who have power with God and men. Israel is God's peculiar treasure and Jesus who is from the tribe of Judah which is a part of the children of Israel has power with God and men. This name change changed not only Jacob but his descendants as well and cleared a path for the Messiah to be born from that line.

Naomi To Mara

Perhaps Naomi's name change may not be considered a name change because even though she asked to be called Mara instead of Naomi she was the only one who it appears called her that.

She wanted to be called Mara because it means bitter. Her life, she thought, had been bitter and that the Lord had dealt bitterly with her (see Ruth Chapter 1 verse 21) and so she believed that her name should be as her life had been thus far.

But the Lord had different plans. The name Naomi means pleasantness and Naomi still had some pleasantness to receive. Her daughter-in-law married Boaz and she became a grandmother when she did not think she would ever be one again.

A depiction of Daniel called "Daniel in the Lion's Den," by Briton Riviere.
A depiction of Daniel called "Daniel in the Lion's Den," by Briton Riviere. | Source

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, And Azariah To Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, And Abednego.

These children of Judah were given new names when they were taken into captivity in Babylon. They were expected to become Babylonians and their name change signified that they were to be changed as people as well. No more were they to be children of Judah but they were to become children of Babylon. This was proven when they were ordered to eat as the Babylonians ate (Daniel Chapter 1) and to serve the god that the Babylonians served (Daniel Chapter 3).

Each of their names testified and glorified God.

Daniel means "God is my judge."

Hananiah means "Yahweh is gracious."

Mishael means "Who is like God?"

Azariah means "He whom God has helped."

The new names they were given and their meanings were:

Belteshazzar - "Bel protect the king"

Shadrach - " Aku's command"

Meshach - "Who is what Aku is?"

Abednego - "Servent of Nebo."

But though their names were changed by men, who they were did not change and the God they worshiped did not change. For they would not defile themselves and they would not bow down to a false god. Indeed, they were prepared to perish for the sake of the true and living God.

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Daniel 3: 16-18 K.J.V.

In the case of the children of Judah, their names were changed in order to prompt them to change the God they served. Perhaps it was hoped that the testimony of their new names to foreign gods would cause their hearts and lives to turn to a different path. This did not happen.

James Jacques Tissot's "The First Denial of St. Peter."
James Jacques Tissot's "The First Denial of St. Peter."

Simon Peter

Jesus added a name to Simon's name and that was Peter. Sometimes, in the Bible, he is called Simon Peter, sometimes he is called Peter and other times he is called Simon who is also called Peter.

The name Simon means " He has heard," and the name Peter means, "Stone."

Jesus did not do away with Simon's name, He added to it. I believe that he needed to become stronger which is why Jesus added Peter to his name. Simon Peter was to face his own denial of the Lord. Jesus said to him, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41)

In time, Simon was referred to as Peter more than he had been and he is known as the disciple Peter to us today. He became a 'stone' strong in the Lord and was able to overcome his weakness of flesh. I think that the blessing of an added name given to him by Jesus helped him significantly. I believe that when God gives a name it is a great blessing.

To Conclude:

Shakespeare was right - A rose by any other name would smell the same, if the name was given by a man. If the Lord chose to name the rose another name then that is another story. The essence of the rose would change to fit the meaning of the name the Lord gave it. I believe this to be true because I believe the words of God have power. That is why I look forward to my new name He has promised me.

"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Revelation 2:17 K.J.V.



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    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Northwind,

      I was blessed to read this a second time. I have been corrected in wishing for worldly things like a "well known author". I seek his face and I pause during this time of passover. I wish for peace and to see the miracle of the gun laws passed.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi whonunuwho,

      The name change really did cause them to see their purpose didn't it? Their name change also helped us, and possibly the people around them at that time, to see the roles they were to play in His great plan. They were a type of His prophecy.

      Thank you for reading and leaving that insight.

    • whonunuwho profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      An interesting work, my friend, and well received in its message of the the value in name change, with wonderful illustrations. I have always felt that God's reason for changing the names of Biblical people was so that they would realize the great importance that the Creator placed upon His jobs for them to do. He knew that the nature of man was always to seek answers and better him or herself and the names were a special statement in the new and marvelous roles they wee to play in their vital parts, how significant it was to be. Thanks again for your fine work.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Jo Goldsmith11,

      I am glad that you were able to find comfort in the meaning of your name. It is a beautiful one and it is wonderful to know that you can fulfill the meaning of your name by being a gift to others.

      As for if you should be doing more, that really is not for me to tell you. Be still and listen when you read the word of God, through His word He can tell you what is His will for your life. Pray and ask Him to enable you to hear what He has to say to you.

      All my best wishes to you and your writing and may the Lord bless you and keep you!

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      6 years ago

      hello North Wind,

      I just found this hub today. Interestingly enough, once again it is right on time! About a few months ago, I found out my name "Joanne", means God's gracious gift". This helped me to chase the blues I had at the time away. About a month later. I was given a scripture Luke 6:38.

      I received such an emotional reaction to this scripture. My spirit seemed to burn the revelation in my heart, that God is in control of my life. He has chosen me for something so very important. I know it as sure as I know what my name means in Hebrew.

      So now as I continue on with my writing and trying to become a well known author. I am curious as to if I should be doing more? I would sure appreciate any insight into my question. thanks! I saved, tweeted and shared this beautiful, interesting and amazing hub!


    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you Starmom41. I am glad that you appreciate it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      very nice- a beautiful hub!!!

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi frogyfish,

      I think it is safe to say that looking forward to the white stone with the new name is something all those who follow Him look forward to.

      I was privileged to read your hub and I am humbled to think that my words helped in some way.

      Thank you very much.

    • frogyfish profile image


      7 years ago from Central United States of America

      Am looking forward to my 'white stone engraved with my new name'...I had not thought about that in a long time. Enjoyed your simple expressive truth here with interesting name-definitions.

      I also wanted to reconnect and say thank you again for your comforting words on a recent hub. You were so kind, and God used your expression to bring tears and peace. Blessings your way too.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      You are very welcome, Michele! I love to say your name and give glory to Him!

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Caleb DRC,

      Names in the Bible have always intrigued me. There are so many and they all have a meaning. Sometimes entire chapters are filled just with names and I know that they serve a purpose just as everything else in the Bible serves a purpose. Just imagine that through a name even an atheist has to give God glory, for if they meet someone named Joshua, they may not even realize that each time they utter his name they are actually professing the truth - that God saves! Amazing and wonderful! You are right- it did was not by my doing for I know that He can make rocks to testify of His glory if He so chose. I continue to pray to be able to be used as a vessel of His.

      I know what you mean about Daniel. I chose this depiction because it looked like he was casually wondering what kind of day it was going to be while his pets roamed around him looking for attention. I always pictured the lions tame around Daniel as well.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Amen, Hyphenbird! His grace is immeasurable. I am so glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      7 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Thank you North Wind, I never knew that. It was so kind of you to tell me that :)

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      7 years ago

      Fascinating, North Wind. It is remarkable what you are able to glean from Scripture. God's revelation through hard work, no doubt.

      Love the picture of Daniel. I've always imagined him using one of the lions for a pillow, and saying, "Now you stay put. You are the best pillow ever!" However, the ones thrown in the den after Daniel . . . well, they did not have that type of friendship with the lions.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Hello North Wind. I love your Hub. I have become a totally different person since I came to know Christ and the incredible grace of God. I am indeed born again and would love to have an all new name to mark this life journey. Thank you for a great read and study.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Michele,

      Actually, your name is in the Bible. Michelle is French, you are right but it is the French female version of the name Michel. Your name Michele is Italian and it is the same name whether boy or girl. The Hebrew translation of this name (both French and Italian )is Michael. He is in the Bible - he is an angel. The name Michael means "Who is like God?" which is the same meaning of Mishael's name. It is probably a variant. And so your name IS in the Bible. Your name testifies that there is no other like God. Every time someone says your name they do not realize that they are giving glory to Him.

      Thanks for reading :)

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      7 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      North Wind this is a wonderful hub. I have no idea what my name means, is not in the bible. It is french and english. My middle name is french also. Either way, thank you for this hub. it is wonderful, even though names in or not in the bible many of us love God and God loves us. Thank you again for this hub!

    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 

      7 years ago from California

      That explains it, they have no idea why. Actually you are right in a very prophetic way.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hello ananceleste,

      Yes, Anan was a priest whose name is recorded in The Book of Nehemiah. The name means 'a cloud' in the Hebrew. Have you ever asked why they chose your name? Sometimes parents do not know why. Sometimes they say that they liked the sound of it. If that is the answer and it does not satisfy you then perhaps praying to God and asking Him about your name might give you some answers. From what I can see, the name Anan is a variant of the name Anani which also means 'a cloud' as well as 'prophesy' and 'divination'.

      Thank you very much for reading. I hope that you find out more about your name.

    • ananceleste profile image

      Anan Celeste 

      7 years ago from California

      Marvelous article; Sometimes I wonder why my parents gave my name,Anan. Is a biblical name, even though they were atheists. Extremely uncommon, and is a male name.

      When I looked it up in my bible, Neh.10 26-28,, it was the name of one of the priests that sealed the ark of the covenant.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hello C.J. Sledgehammer,

      Thank you for your kind words. Christ - I am nobody. Through His grace He has granted the words. May He continue to do so.

      Yes, Saul's name was changed as well. And I agree with you and the ancient Hebrews. I think so too and perhaps I will write about it as well. I have to search the Scriptures thoroughly before I write it and pray that it will glorify His name which is the most important name.

      I try to behave, C.J. Sledgehammer, I really do :)

      Best wishes to you and house as well.

      May the Lord give you strength as you walk along the straight and narrow,

      North Wind.

    • profile image

      CJ Sledgehammer 

      7 years ago

      An outstanding essay, Northwind, I really enjoyed it and couldn't agree with you more!

      Even Saul had His name changed to "Paul" by the Almighty and his life's purpose had a serious change of direction as a result.

      The ancient Hebrews also thought that people's lives reflected the names they had been given. Perhaps there is something to that as well.

      Voted up, useful, beautiful, interesting, and downright awesome! :0)

      Best wishes, behave, and be well - C.J. Sledgehammer

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you hookedhuntress :) His promises are wonderful!

    • hookedhuntress profile image


      7 years ago

      I can't wait to see what my new name will be either.Voted up!



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