Israelite Names—Witnesses of Deity

    “Israelite Names—Witnesses of Deity,” Ensign, Dec. 1990, 52

    Old Testament

    Israelite Names—

    Witnesses of Deity

    We in the latter-day church of Jesus Christ have a number of ways to help us remember the Lord and our covenants: daily personal and family prayers, the scriptures, the sacrament, weekly Church meetings, monthly fast days, and temple ordinances, for instance.

    Ancient Israelites also had methods of remembering God and his commandments: prayer times, regular festivals, fast days, feast days, times of sacrifice, and phylacteries (tiny scrolls of scriptures they carried with them.)

    In addition, many had another method of remembering God, one that is particularly interesting to know about as we read the Old Testament: they often named their children after God, his gifts, and his attributes.

    The Lord himself gave names with significant meanings to many of his chosen servants. For example, he gave Abram the new name Abraham, which means “Father of a Multitude.” Abraham’s new name reflected the covenants and rich promises God had made with him.

    Naming Children after an Aspect of Religious Life

    Of the approximately fourteen hundred personal names preserved in the Bible, more than one-fifth, or some three hundred, contain the name of God (either El, whose plural is Elohim and whose name is often translated into English as God; or Yah, short for Yahweh or Jehovah, the English version of the Old Testament name for Jesus Christ). These names had well-defined grammatical forms and meanings that reflected certain attributes, qualities, virtues, and character traits of God.

    The convention of naming children after deity was not unique to the Israelites. Many ancient societies observed the practice. But the Israelites often used names that revealed the unique nature of their God. The custom resembles the early English and American practice of naming daughters after Christian virtues, such as patience, hope, faith, or charity. Many Israelite daughters were similarly named. The Israelites often went one step further. For instance, instead of naming a child Faith, the parents would give him a name that meant “God Is full of faith.” A few examples follow:

    Some names refer to vital doctrines, such as Asaiah (“Jehovah has made”) and Ammiel (“People of God,” or “My kinsman is God”). Some refer to God’s blessings to us, such as Hezekiah (“My strength is Jehovah,” or “Jehovah strengthens”) and Elidad (“My God has loved”). Some refer to his attributes, qualities, and virtues, such as Jozadak (“Jehovah is just,” or “Jehovah is righteous”) and Eliada (“God knows”). Some refer to his majesty and glory, such as Athaliah (“Jehovah is exalted,” or “Jehovah is strong”) and Eliphaz (“My God is fine gold”). Some refer to his omnipotence, such as Jahaziel (“God sees”).

    The names of many of the Old Testament prophets were also witnesses of God and his powers and attributes: Daniel (“God is a judge”), Elijah (“My God is Jehovah”), Elisha (“God shall save,” or “God is salvation”), Ezekiel (“God strengthens”), Isaiah (“Jehovah is salvation”), Jeremiah (“Jehovah raises up”), Joel (“Jehovah is God”), Michael (“One who is like God”). (See accompanying chart “Hebrew Names and Their Meanings.”)

    Although many of the ancient Israelites were simply following established custom in so naming their children, others undoubtedly used names this way to help themselves and their children observe the first great commandment among Saints of all ages—to love the Lord their God. (See Deut. 6:5–7.)

    The Name of the Lord

    In our society today, naming our children after qualities and attributes of God—except as the words are concealed in Hebrew or other foreign-language names—seems strange to some people. Still, Church members are all known by the Lord’s name, and we covenant weekly to take his name upon us. In the sacramental prayer, we “witness” unto God that we “are willing to take upon [us] the name of [his] Son.” (D&C 20:77.)

    This practice also dates back to Old Testament times. The Lord said to Abraham, “I will take thee, to put upon thee my name.” (Abr. 1:18.) To Moses he declared, “[Aaron and his sons] shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” (Num. 6:27.)

    King Benjamin taught that “there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ. …

    “Whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 5:8–9.) We not only take upon us the Lord’s name, but we will also be called by that name.

    Who will call us by His name? Benjamin answers that it is the Master himself: “Remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, … that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.” (Mosiah 5:12.)

    Alma reiterated this important principle: “The good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ.” (Alma 5:38.)

    Many of us are not given names that remind us to follow the Lord and live the gospel. But the Lord’s name, which we have covenanted to take upon us, can provide both model and motivation. By remembering that we are called after the greatest Man who ever lived, and by seeking to become more like him, both we and our children can more consistently walk the straight path that leads us back to our Father.

    Hebrew Names and Their Meanings

    The following are Hebrew given names that tell us something about God. Each teaches a different principle, helping us to better understand the significance of names in the Old Testament and giving us renewed witnesses of God himself. (The Hebrew form of the name most often used is Yah. More familiar is the English form, Jehovah, which is the one used in this article. For El, the article uses God.) Note: Most of these names were given to sons, a few to daughters, and several to either sons or daughters. Many names have been translated differently by different scholars. Where significant differences exist, alternate translations are supplied.

    Names that Teach of the Atonement

    Athaiah—Jehovah has succored or has made
    Eliphelet—My God rescues
    Elishua—My God is salvation
    Isaiah—Jehovah is salvation
    Izrahiah—Jehovah will arise
    Jeremiah—Jehovah raises up
    Joshua—Jehovah saves or helps
    Mehujael—God causes to live, or Smitten of God
    Paltiel—God is my deliverance
    Pedaiah—Jehovah ransoms
    Pelaliah—Jehovah has mediated or arbitrated or interceded
    Raphael—God has healed

    Names that Teach of God’s Relationship to Us

    Abijah—Jehovah is my father
    Adonijah—Jehovah is my Lord
    Adriel—Flock of God
    Ahijah—My brother is Jehovah
    Ammiel—People of God, or My kinsman is God
    Daniel—God is a judge
    Dodavah—Beloved of Jehovah
    Eldaah—God has called or loved
    Eleazar—God has helped
    Elijah—My God is Jehovah
    Gabriel—Man or warrior of God
    Hodiah—Praise of Jehovah, or God is my splendor, or Splendor is of Jehovah
    Jedidiah—Loved by Jehovah
    Lemuel—Belonging to God
    Malchiel—My king is God
    Micah (and Michaiah)—Who is like Jehovah
    Michael—One who is like God
    Mikneiah—Possession of Jehovah
    Obadiah—Servant of Jehovah
    Reuel—Friend of God

    Names that Teach of God’s Blessings to Us

    Ahaziah—Jehovah upholds or holds firm
    Amasiah—Jehovah has borne
    Anaiah—Jehovah has answered
    Ananiah—Protected or covered by Jehovah
    Azaziah—Strengthened or helped by Jehovah
    Azriel—My help is God
    Barachel—God blesses
    Elhanan—God shows favor or is gracious
    Eliakim—God sets upright or raises up
    Eliashib—God causes to return or restores
    Elidad—My God has loved
    Elisha—God shall save or is salvation
    Elisheba—God of the oath
    Elnathan—God has given
    Gaddiel—My fortune is God
    Gamaliel—My reward is God, or Recompense of God
    Gedaliah—Jehovah has magnified
    Haggiah—Jehovah is my festival
    Hananeel—God has shown favor or is gracious
    Hashabiah—Jehovah has taken into account or considered
    Hezekiah—My strength is Jehovah, or Jehovah strengthens
    Ibnijah—Jehovah builds
    Igdaliah—Jehovah makes great or is great
    Immanuel—God is with us
    Ishmael—God hears
    Israel—God contends, or He strives with God
    Jehoiakim—Jehovah raises up
    Jehoshabeath—Jehovah is an oath, or Abundance or Wholeness of Jehovah
    Joezer—Jehovah is help
    Johanan—Jehovah has shown favor
    Jonathan—Jehovah has given
    Josiah—Jehovah supports or gives
    Jozabad—Jehovah has bestowed, or Jehovah is a gift
    Nathanael (or Nathaneel)—God has given
    Nedabiah—He whom Jehovah fills to overflowing
    Nehemiah—Jehovah consoles, or Comfort of Jehovah
    Pekahiah—Jehovah has opened, or Jehovah open his eyes
    Semachiah—Jehovah has sustained or supported
    Shelumiel—God is my peace
    Shemariah—Jehovah has guarded or kept or preserved
    Uriah—Jehovah is light or fire
    Zephaniah—Jehovah protects or has concealed or has sheltered

    Names that Teach of God’s Majesty and Glory

    Adaiah—Jehovah has adorned or ornamented himself
    Adiel—God is an ornament
    Athaliah—Jehovah is exalted or strong
    Eliphaz—My God is fine gold
    Eliud—My God is his praise or majesty
    Jehoram—Jehovah is high
    Jochebed—Jehovah is glory
    Joel—Jehovah is God
    Zerahiah—Jehovah has shone or arisen or dawned

    Names that Teach of God’s Qualities, Attributes, and Works

    Amaziah—Jehovah is mighty or strong
    Asahel—God has made
    Asareel—God has bound
    Chenaniah—Jehovah is steadfast
    Elead—God has testified
    Eliada—God knows
    Elizur—My God is a rock
    Elkanah—God has created or taken possession
    Elnaam—God is pleasantness or gracious
    Elpaal—God has acted
    Hasadiah—Jehovah is faithful
    Hazael—God has seen
    Jabneel—God causes to be built, or God is builder
    Jahdiel—God rejoices
    Jahzeel—Jehovah divides
    Jathniel—God has given or is constant
    Jecoliah—Jehovah can
    Jehoaddan—Jehovah is pleasing
    Jehoiachin—Jehovah has established or raises up
    Jehoshaphat—Jehovah judges or establishes justice
    Jezreel—God sows
    Joed—Jehovah is witness
    Jonadab—Jehovah is generous or noble
    Jozadak—Jehovah is just or righteous
    Maaziah—Jehovah is a fortress or a refuge
    Mehetabel—God does good
    Pethuel—Vision or Sincerity or Youthfulness of God
    Tabeel—God is good
    Zechariah—Jehovah remembers


    Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. E. Robinson, 2d. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951).

    Madeleine S. Miller and J. Lane Miller, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 8th ed. (New York, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1973.)

    O. Odelain and R. Seguineau, Dictionary of Proper Names and Places in the Bible, trans. Matthew J. O‘Connell (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981).

    Illustrated by Mark Robison