Do you appreciate when someone remembers your name? Probably. Names convey identity. When someone knows our name, they know us as a unique individual. We are not just another customer or patient or member.
The Bible teaches this same idea. The Hebrew name for the Book of Exodus is “Names.” The reason is that the Hebrew title of each book of the Bible is based upon the first significant word in the book. For the Book of Exodus, the first significant Hebrew is Shemot, which means “names.”
How Does God Use Names?
The power of names is a central theme throughout Exodus. God uses names to teach values and character. Today we look at three early examples of the way God does this, and we will return to this theme over the next several weeks:
1. To Establish Continuity: In the first verse of Exodus we recall the names of the leaders of the tribes of Israel who journeyed to Egypt. We knew their names already. Why do we need them again?
The names provide a feeling of continuity between Israel and Egypt, and between the book of Genesis and the Book of Exodus. Lest we think each book of the bible is separate and unconnected with the others, we read the names of the same Israelites chieftains from Genesis.
Names are a source of continuity. Even as our character may change, our name stays with us. They bring a continuity to our lives and, in the case of the Israelites, connect us to those who came before us.
2. To Predict the Future: According to the Bible, the name Moses is derived from the Hebrew root word m-s-eh, which means “to draw out.” Pharaoh’s daughter drew Moses out of the water, and thus named him as “the one who is drawn out.” Some scholars suggest the root is really Egyptian, and that the name Moses is derived from the Egyptian root M-S-S, which means “child.”
In any case, Moses is a child who is drawn out from the water. His name points to his eventual leading the Israelites across the water (the Red Sea) into Egypt. Just as he is saved from drowning, he will save his people from slavery.
3. To Demonstrate Character: Ironically, the woman who names Moses is never given a name in the Bible. We simply know her as Pharaoh’s daughter.
Later Jewish commentary, however, gives her the name Batya. This is an especially beautiful choice, as Batya means “daughter of God.” Even though she is biologically the daughter of a wicked Pharaoh, her actions show that she is a true daughter of God, a person willing to do right and care for a helpless Hebrew child.
Each of us has a name given by our parents. We also have a name given by our deeds. The Bible teaches that this is the name that matters most.