Divine Human Names. -- By: Thomas Laurie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:181 (Jan 1889)
Article: Divine Human Names.
Author: Thomas Laurie


Divine Human Names.

Thomas Laurie

Few studies are more fascinating than the searching out the meaning of names. The Blacks and Browns, the Smiths and the Taylors, are plain enough. But to find that Leonard is “the lion-hearted,” Sheldon “the man who lives by the fountain on the hill,” that Luther is “the celebrated one,” Forsyth “the honest man,” and Morgan “the one born at sea,” and so on through an endless list, is a continuous joy. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope where each turn surprises you with a new delight.

Originally every name had its meaning, growing out of some peculiarity in character, or physical singularity of the owner. It might have been even the location of his home: thus the occupant of the west cottage was known as Westcott, and the man in the north hamlet was Northrop.

We see this most clearly in the Bible names, where the mode of its origin is often given along with the name. Thus Adam is the man formed from red earth, and Cain is the man obtained from the Lord; Saul is the man

who was asked for, and David is the beloved one, and it startles us that the name Dido has the same signification; Ruth is the lady friend, and -Susannah is the lily. Even the Hebrew word for name is itself the name of one son of Noah. Ham, “the hot one,” is the appropriate cognomen of his brother who dwelt in the hot regions of the south; and Japhet, i.e., “the widely spreading,” is the fitting title of him whose descendants spread along the shores of the seas.

In studying Bible names we are struck at once with the large number into which the name of God enters as a constituent part. To us this may seem like making too free with the most sacred things, but in the simplicity of the early ages, it was a genuine reverence for God that led men to give such names to their children.

In Hebrew there are several names for God. One of these is El (pronounced like Ail), the generic term for Deity. It means literally “The mighty one,” and all other attributes were subordinated in the thought of that day to supreme power. In poetry this name of God often stands alone, though sometimes with the article, as Ps. 18:30, 32, 47 (31, 33 and 48 in the Hebrew Bible). This name of Deity takes the pronominal suffix of the first person as in Ps. 22:1 (

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