Friday, February 3, 2012

What Is His Name?
A Devotional Study on the Names of God

by Jacque Brown


What’s in a Name?

Webster defines “name” as a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or a thing; reputation, fame, etc. The first time the word is mentioned in Scripture is in Genesis 2 when Adam was “naming” the animals as they passed in front of him, and it is implied that he named each one according to special, distinctive characteristics.  And, that the names he gave them are the names that have continued to this day! The Hebrew words used for “name” speak of reputation, memory, renown, etc. A name was given at time of birth, not necessarily because of some characteristic observed, but oftentimes because of special events that occurred at the time of birth.  God Himself named “Adam”...a name, according to Genesis 5, that He gave to both Adam and Eve because it spoke of their origin: “from the earth”, always a reminder that mankind was created from the dust of the earth-mortal- certainly not eternal! And Adam named his wife “woman” because she was taken from his flesh, “flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone”. Later, in Genesis 3, Adam named her “Eve”: life giver...always a reminder to them and to all generations after them that God is a forgiving and merciful God, and that Eve would become the mother of all who lived!  Names were oftentimes “memory markers”. For instance, the name “Ichabod” was given to a certain child because he was born at the moment that the Ark of the Covenant of God was taken captive by the Philistines and the glory of God had departed from Israel (I Samuel 4). What a name to be stuck with for a lifetime, a constant reminder to Israel of what happened on the day of his birth!

As seen throughout Scripture, some names were definitely given because of characteristics or features observed at the birth of a child: for instance, think about “Esau”: named because he was covered with hair at birth.  (He had the nickname “Edom” because that hair was very red!) Or “Jacob”: named because he did not have a lot of body hair at birth, but a name with double meaning: Jacob was definitely “smooth”-but not in a good sense-he was a trickster, a deceiver, a manipulator of people.  Oftentimes, names were given to express personal dreams and desires of the parents, such as “Joseph”, which means “added”, because Rachel hoped that God would give her more children.

In Hebrew, names were given that symbolically embodied all of the characteristics of the object; the Hebrew mind loved symbolism! This is particularly true when we come to a study of the names of God. There are names of God that denote His character; there are names of God that speak of the many different aspects of His Being; there are names that bring to mind His Love, His Faithfulness, His Power, His Majesty, His Holiness, His Righteousness, His Integrity, and on and on. When we find the phrase, “Name of God”, anywhere in Scripture, it is meant to convey to us the essence of His Being-Who He is, His Authority, His Sovereignty, etc. For instance, when we read, “The name of God is a strong tower” (Prov. 18:10), what a picture that phrase immediately brings to mind! This is not referring to just one specific name, but THE NAME OF GOD! It brings a vivid picture to my mind of speaking His Name in the midst of turmoil and experiencing His peace and security while the turmoil continues! I speak His Name, and I am safe! He is My Hiding Place; therefore, His Name is my Hiding Place.

These names, particularly the Hebrew Names that we will be studying, are the Names that God gave us for Himself so that we could get to know Him better. We are going to approach this study from the standpoint of what God has to say about Himself, and the significance of each of the names in the immediate context in which they are found.

We will also look at each name from a standpoint of the Law of First Mention, meaning that the first time God reveals a certain truth about Himself to us, we need to study the context to better understand what God is saying. In some instances, He will give a “seed” thought that will be developed further throughout Scripture. Some of the names of God are only mentioned once in Scripture, so in those instances, it would be particularly true to study the name in the context in which it was given. For example, one of my favorite names for God is in Genesis 16, the story of Hagar. She became pregnant by Abraham, and ran away from Abraham and Sara because she was being treated so badly by Sara. The Angel of the Lord appeared to her in the desert and instructed her to return to Abraham, and proceeded to give her specific promises concerning her life and the life of her unborn son. She gave the Lord the name “EL ROI”, You are the God Who sees me, based on her realization that this God actually saw her in her desperate need, and she had seen Him!  This is the only time this name appears in Scripture, and what a beautiful picture of God when we study the name in the context in which it was given!  He sees me, and because I know and believe He sees me, I begin to “see” Him, to recognize Him when He is near, to recognize His voice, to know Him better!  But more of that name later!

There have been many books and commentaries written on the names of God, and I have read a lot of them. I do not claim to have anything new to add in the sense of a “new revelation” from God or anything like that. What I do have is a personal journey that began over 46 years ago when I first met Jesus Christ and was introduced to my Heavenly Father! That day in 1965, the journey began to know Him better, and continues to this day.

The title of this book, “What Is His Name?” is taken from Exodus 3:13-14, when God sends Moses to rescue His people from the hand of Pharaoh.

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and 
say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ 
and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 
what shall I say to them?” 
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” 
And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, 
‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Although thousands of years have passed since God made that claim to Moses, we are no different today than the people during that period of history.  We are still in need of rescue, we are still surrounded by hundreds of false gods, and we still do not know the true and living God the way He wants us to know Him!

It is the desire and longing of my heart that each of us will catch the excitement and thrill of getting to know God more intimately than we ever have before!


The following resources have been excellent tools to help me “mine” the treasures found in the Names of God, but they are just that - tools!  By far, the greatest source of inspiration and illumination has been on my knees with the Word of God open before the Holy Spirit, asking Him to show me the Glory of God as I have never seen Him before.  He has done just that for me through this study.  The factual information has been gleaned from many different sources, some of which are listed below.  Having studied and taught the various names of God before, I was familiar with a lot of the facts.  But as I bowed before Him, He revealed Himself to me, and that is what I want to share with you!

God is not a “fact” or bit of information - He is a Person, He is Reality - and He longs to bring each of us into intimacy with Himself!  It is my prayer for anyone reading these words that God will use this study to continue opening the eyes of those who long to know Him better.

Key Study Bible: Zodhiates
The Amplified Bible
J.B. Phillips’ New Testament
New King James
King James
Kay Arthur:  To Know Him By Name
Lockyer:  All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible
Stone:  Names of God
Loeks: The Glorious Names of God
Keller: A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm
MacDonald: Discovering the Character of God
Spurgeon: Treasury of David
Stevenson: Titles of the Triune God
Gaebelein: Expositor’s Bible Commentary  (Gen-Deut)
Unger: Unger’s Bible Dictionary
Vine: Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
Morris: The Genesis Record
Pink: Gleanings from Genesis
Henry: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible

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