Naming Your Child: A Prophetic Declaration?

Names were rich in meaning in the ancient days. You didn’t just name your children wily nily whatever-sounds-good-at-the time names.

A hodge podge assimilation of syllables or fleeting cultural icons would never do for a child’s name way back when (ie I’ve ran across more than one “Nike” or “Mercedes”). A regrettable upward trend in 2010 girl baby names shows that “Kendra” and “Kourtney” with a “K” are becoming more popular among young parents. Why? Because of the notorious reality shows of Kourtney Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson (former playmate).

In the olden days of biblical history, a child’s name held a certain foreshadowing weight to it. Bestowing a name on a child was a prophetic declaration, a visible sign of God fulfilling his covenant promises to the individual families of Israel.

Biblical names revealed much about a person’s past, expected future character, or life in general:

Adam means “man, clay or dust.” Eve means “first woman.”

Abraham means “father of multitude,”; after billions of “children” have come from his seed I would say that prophetic name has rang true. Abraham named his son “Isaac”, which means “laughter” (which is what the elderly Sara did when she found she would be pregnant with him!)

Biblical names didn’t always have endearing overtones attached to them. Look at the tragic names of the children of prophet Hosea for more on this (the boy named “Sue” was lucky compared to them). Isaac’s son, Jacob, name means “trickster or deceiver”, which is what he ended up doing to Esau to obtain his birthright. Jacob later wrestled with the Lord to obtain his new name, Israel, which means “straightened by God” (Genesis 32). So in the case of Jacob, his respective names reflected that a deceitful crook got straightened out by the Holy One of Israel.

“Samuel” means “heard from God” which is what he did as a prophet to Israel.

Peter’s name means “The Rock”, as in one of the foundational apostles the early church would be built on.

So in many cases, biblical characters are given names (prophetically and retroactively) that reflect their personal qualities.

My wife and I are not trying to be hyper-spiritual, but we do believe our son’s names should be meaningful to us, just as a baby’s name was meaningful to the biblical families of old. We decided on the names “Josiah” (our two-year old) and “Gideon” (due March) for various reasons. Though most people complement the uniqueness of the names, we do get some semi-puzzled looks that seem to intimate certain questions such as “Are you Jewish?” or “Are you Amish?” or “Are you weird?”

“Josiah” was one of the few righteous kings in Israel’s history in a long line of royal charlatans and chumps (2 Kings 22:2). “Josiah” means “Jehovah heals/saves” and in the anglicized version of the Hebrew it means “Fire of God.” He became king at the ripe age of eight after his father, Amon, was assassinated. He was the last good thing to happen to the nation of Israel before it was utterly destroyed in 586 B.C by Babylon. At the young age of 20, King Josiah began a building campaign to restore and repair the Temple which was neglected by kings past. During construction the “Book of The Law” was discovered and its commands struck the young king like a knife in the heart. By repenting of idolatry on behalf of his nation, and preaching the newly found word of God, the bold Josiah began a massive reformation in the life of Israel (2 Chron 34:21-33).

"King" Josiah on horseback....with his mom

Gideon was a “mighty man of valor” and a warrior judge for the nation of Israel. “Gideon” literally means “mighty warrior.” By trusting in God he carried out great exploits for his nation even when the odds were stacked ridiculously against him (Judges 7:4-7). Through supernatural means, Gideon led the outnumbered Israelites to victory over the Midianite forces, and purged the Israeli camp of Baal worship. After 40 years of relative prosperity and peace under Gideon Israel tried to coronate him king, but he refused, insisting only God should hold such honor.

We hope and pray our son’s names are like prophetic declarations that bear fruit similar to the lives of the biblical Josiah and Gideon. I hope Josiah is not necessarily political royalty, but rather a zealous repentant leader who preaches the word and longs for revival. I hope Gideon is not necessarily a military leader, but rather a courageous and humble spiritual warrior who fights for the soul of his family and community while violently destroying the idols in his own life.

But more than anything, I want them to fall in love with Jesus (or “the one who saves”), and make it their aim to know Him and make His name known (Matt 1:21). Ultimately, Jesus is the name above every other name, and all who confess Him will find true significance, and most importantly, salvation in His mighty name (Phill 2:9-11).

Bryan Daniels


Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

9 thoughts on “Naming Your Child: A Prophetic Declaration?”

  1. I so totally agree with what you’ve done with your children. My kids joke that I was totally pagan with the first two, Meghann and Chelsea. But I didn’t understand the significance of names the way I do now. My next three kids are Elijah, Abigail and Malachi. And when the next ones come along, there will probably be an Ezekiel or Hannah or both.

    This is a great blog entry. I was actually preparing one for the next month or so about the importance of names, because we are discussing the importance of our words at our church. I sat my kids down recently and explained to them (again) what I am prophetically declaring each time I call their names. So you might see a blog from me on this soon. Would you mind if I link to yours when I publish it so that people can see this great one you’ve written? If not, I won’t be offended. It’s okay. 🙂

  2. Wow. You totally understand the prophetic significance of naming. It means to call out something in a person, place, or thing – the essence of it, past present and future. Ecclesia (the church): called out ones!

    My middle name is Suzanne, the French form of Susan. The Hebrew is shoshannim, which means lily – the Easter lily because it means a straight rod or trumpet. The root word of that is shuwr, which means rejoice. God knew what he was doing when he led my mom to name me Suzanne! I rejoice in my name now. It’s prophetic of my Christian calling (Isaiah 49, Psalm 133). I’m learning the meanings of my other names too and they’re so rich.

    When God calls someone, he first teaches them their identity – through their birth name, birthdate, birthplace, birthstone, etc. It ALL has significance.

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