The Prophetic Meaning of Hebrew Names
The Beauty of Hebrew Names
Names are wonderful things that have a deep past. Each name brings a history and a story with it, some that are funny and some that are sad. In today’s world, many people have no clue as to what significance names hold. People often chose a name because they like the way it sounds or because they knew someone with that same name and they were impressed by that person and wanted to pass that name on to their child. Oftentimes cultures that have a stronger link to tribal identification tend to remember the meaning of their names.
In Judaism, it is a belief that the name a person is given is one that will help shape and destine their lives. Therefore, there is a baby naming ceremony. The boy's baby naming is in conjunction with his Brit Milah (Circumcision on the 8th day), and the girl's baby naming sometime within the first month. The Sephardic Jews of Spain, North Africa, and South America have the tendency of naming their babies after someone who is alive. The Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe tend to name their babies after someone who has passed on.
Many Jewish names have worked their way into many cultures in the world through the common heritage that Christianity and Islam share with the Jewish world by the use of scriptures.
The name Daniel, for example, is in several cultures of the world. The meaning is beautiful and strong. Dan in Hebrew means Judge, Dani means my Judge and El means G-d, therefore when the two words are put together the name of Daniel means G-d is my Judge. This is a beautiful idea because the name recognizes the true judge.
The name Michael, this is the name of an Angel in scripture and has been used in several cultures as well. "Mi" in Hebrew mean "who", the second part is "cha" which means "like" and as stated earlier the "el" means G-d. The whole name is "Who is like G-d", which would make sense because if someone was to see an actual angel they would probably confuse the encounter with the angel as possibly an encounter with G-d.
There is another name taken from an Angel is that of Raphael. This is a great name because of what it means. The word "Rophe" means healer, and of course, we see the "El" again, and when both words are put together we have the name Raphael which means "G-d heals".
From the above names, you might have recognized a pattern. The pattern is that in Hebrew every name tries to use a reference to G-d. This is somewhat correct, especially with the male names in Hebrew. The attachment of the "El" is used or the attachment of the "Yah" is used. For example, there is a wonderful prophet with a book named after him called Yechezkiel. Here the word "Yechezki" means "He will be strong". Who will be strong? Attach the "El", and it is clear as a name that "Yechezkiel" means that "G-d will strong", meaning that G-d will be strong in the life of the one with that name. Yechezkiel anglicized becomes Ezekiel. However, there is another way to say the same thing. "Chezkiyahu" Here the root for strong "Chezki" starts off the name and it is followed by the "Yah" which is part of the unpronounceable name of G-d, and the "hu" which means "He", the whole name means "G-d, He is my strength, or my Strength is G-d". A synonym name would be Uzziel, meaning "G-d is my Strength".
I wish I could say that all Hebrew names had this wonderful aspect of having G-d's name incorporated within in it. However, it is not clear as that. The name Shaul means "asked of, or borrowed from", the story of the first King of Israel is that the people called out to G-d for an earthly King, and G-d responded to them and sent them Shaul (Saul). Here is the obvious play on their request. The name carries another connotation to it which is that Shaul means "gift of G-d", but a more direct name for this is Yonathan (Jonathan).
Not all names are connected to G-d, there is the naming system where people are named after animals and other creatures. For example, Dov which means Bear, Ari which means lion, or Ariel which actually connects to G-d and means the Lion of G-d or Devorah (Deborah, or Debra) which means a bumble bee. There are also common names after flowers, for example, Shoshana, which means Rose, is used and is anglicized as Suzanne.
The beauty of names is not limited to Hebrew and this destiny that is connected to the name does not seem to only be a Hebrew conception. In German the name Frederick means "Peaceful King", and tends to be a powerful name. The name "George" tends to also be a powerful name. Naming children after Kings bring about a powerful connect spiritually that is like saying you are destining the child to be a King.
Not all names are great. There are two names in the book of Ruth which are Machlon and Kilyon, which means "sickly" and "weakly", and as the course of the story goes, they did not survive. They are killed off in the first couple of sentences. In this case, maybe the names were changed to protect the innocent!
There are some names that have dual meanings. The example is Maryam, which could mean "Bitter" or means "Praised or Uplifted", obviously the intent is the good meaning. There is also the concept of the name sounding like something else. The example is "Shaul" it means "Ask or borrowed" as stated above but it also sounds like "Sheol" and in Hebrew, the spelling is exactly the same because Hebrew does not use vowels. Well, Sheol in Hebrew means "the pit, or to some Hell", it is not a good association. The upside is that this name of a King is also similar to "Shu'al" which is the word for fox. In other words, Shaul needs to be like a fox and out-fox the pit of hell.
Whatever the name, they are beautiful and help to destine a person’s life. The lesson is to be careful when choosing a name.
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Lion's Den Beit Hamidrash was established in 5777/2017 under the auspices of Rabbi Shaul Danyiel.