17 October, 2018

Name the Place

I’ve been reading the early Old Testament, and the stories are coming alive in a way I’ve never experienced before. Maybe it’s the transition from childhood imagination to having more of a grasp of the way life works. Something I've noticed is the prolific amount and significance of names given. People were named after their characteristics; it was their identity. The Hebrew definition for name comes from a word that means ‘to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, etc.’ Naming a child back then was literally declaring a prophecy over them. 

To us the old Hebrew names sound strange and random, but to those who understood the language, each name was full of meaning. Imagine introducing yourself to someone and them having immediate insight into your character and personality just by the name you have! It makes me want to learn the language so I can enjoy the vividness of life portrayed in the Old Testament genealogies. 

Then, there were names given to places. When one of the patriarchs built an altar, dug a well, even came to a place in their travels, they named it. They defined what it was to them, and, in most cases, the name stuck. I think it’s beautiful, because it sets that moment in time apart. It wasn’t just one of the times they were worshipping God, it was Jehovah-jirah, the time God saw and provided. The well where God met Hagar when she was sent away with Ishamel, was Beer-lahai-roi, the place she realized God lived and cared for her. Maybe it was a way of preserving the moments to treasure; maybe it became a catalogue of lessons learned and personal revelations from God. 

I was planning to lead into the significance of making sure we find our identity in who God says we are, rather than what others call us, or labels we cling to ourselves. I was going to talk about how God changed people’s names to reflect their future (Abram became ‘father of a great multitude’, and Jacob became ‘a prince of God’) and He can do the same for us; our past isn’t who we are. We are what He calls us, nothing less. And He calls us His own, loved, chosen, destined for good works.
But this idea of naming our experiences comes back to me. It’s a way we can preserve the little moments we learn and grow, we experienced life and love and beauty. It’s a reminder to pause. Often, I have an idea of things I’m learning and going through but it’s vague. I don’t define it, unless I have to write it down or explain it to someone. There are a lot of parts of life I never stop to process and appreciate, and it makes me question if that’s the way God intended us to live. Life is often so fast paced we don’t take it in and name the place. But what lessons and insights into God’s goodness might we be missing? How might we feel if we took a breath and considered what we’re experiencing, and these passing moments became etched into our memories?

So, maybe that’s what God wants me to learn from this observation of His word. He is who He says He is. I am who He says I am. And the same power to attach meaning through choice of words is mine as well. He wants us to take note of the life happening around, to us and through us, and truly experience it. Name the place. Set it as a memento to look back and see how God has been revealing Himself, changing us, and making this life everything it is and will be.


What have you been learning recently? Do you have a favourite Old Testament book or story? How do you think we can ‘name the place’ in our everyday lives?  


  1. I love this post! I actually have never really given it much thought that the names back in the Bible have meaning. I mean, I know they do, but sometimes I just see them as hard to pronounce long names. But really, they are a little piece of who that person was. Thanks for pointing this out to me! Names are important, and that makes it even more amazing that God calls us His children!
    Thank you for this post! <3

    1. Aw, I'm glad! :) Yes, I know what you mean - often I used to skim over them because they were so difficult to pronounce, whoops. And so true! We can find our identity in the names God gives us. Thanks for your comment, Brooklyne! xx

  2. I also love this post. :) I can't say I used to have a great childhood imagination for Old Testament stories... but I think my imagination is just developing. I can see the joy that biblical fiction authors get in their writing processes and often catch myself imagining the settings and what might have gone on in between, or what the more complex dynamics might have been between two given people. Recently, I've been reading about that less familiar time prior to David becoming king when he was constantly fleeing Saul, hiding in caves and wildernesses, separated from his soul mate Jonathan, leading an army of sorts that had come to him as he hid... then later how Saul fell on his sword to kill himself and how Joab, the commander of Saul's army, stayed loyal to Saul's house for some time, then felt betrayed and turned to David but one of David's officials killed him because he thought Joab was playing a trick, and David mourned for Joab (as he had for Saul) in spite of all the harm Joab and Saul had done to him. There's so much room to wonder what might have been going on beyond what is told. Just to think that these were real people with complex stories of their own and battles within themselves and with others...

    Anyway, your post was about names. It does make me want to go and look up the meanings behind some of the more obscure (and funny) names. I suppose names of people would first and formost reflect their parents' journeys and expectations for their children, though I wonder how often these "prophecies" became true - how often the Lord honoured the declarations of these little-known characters of the Bible.

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, dear friend. It was a delight to read!

    1. You're so sweet, Jordy. Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, I think reading Biblical fiction has helped me think more broadly about the stories in the Bible, and helped the characters seem more real with struggles and mistakes. It's so cool how the Bible remains relevant as we grow and mature too! And yes, that is an interesting part of David's life. Although it was rouugh, I can't help but think it was good preparation for being king. God works all things out for His purposes. :)

      Yes, I wondered a similar thing - a lot of the names did reflect what the parents were going through, which may not necessarily have been what the children would grow up to be. But it's interesting. It makes me wonder what other understandings we've lost in translation too!

      Thanks again for your comment amd support! xx

  3. It's true -- reading the Bible again as an adult, is a new experience. You see things in a new light! I'm rereading the New now for the first time in probably three years, going cover from cover, and it's really humbling. <3

    1. Yes, it's so cool! It makes me really realize how God's word will never get old. That sounds great! It's always interesting to get the broader context of the passages by reading through the Bible too. Thanks for your comment, friend! xx

  4. I like the idea of people having names reflecting who they are, and places what they mean. I haven’t ever really thought deeply about it though.

    While I love the New Testament I also love the Old Testament... I’m currently reading in Jeremiah. When I was younger I didn’t like reading the Old Testament as much - or at least the books prophets’ wrote. I guess I thought that they were boring. But now that I’m older I can see the words come alive with meaning! You get to see so many attributes of God and you get to see His full character - His righteous wrath, judgement, just nature, and His Grace, love, mercy, and compassion.

    Great post, Jessica! :)

    1. Yes, it's really interesting! We kind of don't do that anymore - or not the extent it seems they did back then, maybe.

      I relate to your experience so much! I used to shy away from the Old Testament, but now it's positively fascinating, especially combined with the New Testament. :) Jeremiah is an interesting book! What have you gotten out of it so far?

      Thanks, Sarah! xx

  5. I've always loved old testament stories -- they hold such character and uniqueness! I really love what you say about names/ identity here. When naming my characters I love to find names that mean according to who they are. Names are just such amazing things, like language. So much more depth past all those lines that make up letters that make up words :)


    1. Yes they do! Oh that sounds like fun, and quite possibly a challenge too, I would imagine! They are, and it's so cool to discover a little more of their significance. Thanks for your comment, Keturah! :)

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