The first people on earth were also the first who had to come up with names. In the second chapter of the book of Genesis we read about Adam naming the animals, from big Elephant to small Fruit Fly. When God presented the first woman to him Adam named her “Mother of Life”, aka: Eve.
Name-giving was very intentional in those days. Names were supposed to reflect the identity of the name-bearer and therefore were descriptive, precise and meaningful. There is power to a name. We realize that in name-calling, which is a bad experience, but proves a point. Call for instance someone a loser and that person might end up acting like one.
Typecasting is the twin brother to name-calling. When Isaac’s sons were born, their names were given based on first impressions (Genesis 25:25-26):
“The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.”
Esau sounds like a Hebrew word that means “hair”. The parents named their firstborn “Hairy Guy” while they named their second son “Heel” – which is what “Jacob” sounds like in Hebrew. And when they named their heel-grabbing little son “Jacob” they really associated him with being a Trickster. They basically called their son a deceiver. Thankfully, Jacob did not get stuck in that mold. As we find out later in the story, God changed his name to Israel, which translated means “Strong Man of God”. By the way this is a great example illustrating how people see us versus how God sees us. He looked at Jacob and despite all his schemes and dishonesty, saw a strong man of God. Beyond our current stage, the Lord sees our potential. He knows us better than anybody.
Last but not least: God’s name. Does God have a name? If so, who gave Him that name? This is problematic – since God is eternal, nobody preceded Him to actually give Him a name. So in this case name-giving does not apply. Moses ran into this issue when he asked God for His name. Here is a snippet of the conversation between God and Moses (Exodus 3:13-14):
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
When God revealed His name “I Am”, this was the best possible answer Moses could have received. And to this day, God’s answer has given us something to work with. Personally, I view His name as an invitation to get to know Him. Who is this “I Am”? What does He mean with “I Am”? What does “I Am” stand for? These questions are ours to explore and we will find that God reveals Himself to those who pursue Him.