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TitleIsraelite Names—Witnesses of Deity
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsParry, Jay A., and Donald W. Parry
Issue Number12
Date PublishedDecember 1990
KeywordsNames of God; Onomastics

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Israelite Names—Witnesses of Deity

By Jay A. Parry and Donald W. Parry

We in the latter-day church of Jesus Christ have a number of ways to help us remember the Lord and our covenants: daily personal and family prayers, the scriptures, the sacrament, weekly Church meetings, monthly fast days, and temple ordinances, for instance.

Ancient Israelites also had methods of remembering God and his commandments: prayer times, regular festivals, fast days, feast days, times of sacrifice, and phylacteries (tiny scrolls of scriptures they carried with them.)

In addition, many had another method of remembering God, one that is particularly interesting to know about as we read the Old Testament: they often named their children after God, his gifts, and his attributes.

The Lord himself gave names with significant meanings to many of his chosen servants. For example, he gave Abram the new name Abraham, which means “Father of a Multitude.” Abraham’s new name reflected the covenants and rich promises God had made with him.

Naming Children after an Aspect of Religious Life

Of the approximately fourteen hundred personal names preserved in the Bible, more than one-fifth, or some three hundred, contain the name of God (either El, whose plural is Elohim and whose name is often translated into English as God; or Yah, short for Yahweh or Jehovah, the English version of the Old Testament name for Jesus Christ). These names had well-defined grammatical forms and meanings that reflected certain attributes, qualities, virtues, and character traits of God.

The convention of naming children after deity was not unique to the Israelites. Many ancient societies observed the practice. But the Israelites often used names that revealed the unique nature of their God. The custom resembles the early English and American practice of naming daughters after Christian virtues, such as patience, hope, faith, or charity. Many Israelite daughters were similarly named. The Israelites often went one step further. For instance, instead of naming a child Faith, the parents would give him a name that meant “God Is full of faith.” A few examples follow:

Some names refer to vital doctrines, such as Asaiah (“Jehovah has made”) and Ammiel (“People of God,” or “My kinsman is God”). Some refer to God’s blessings to us, such as Hezekiah (“My strength is Jehovah,” or “Jehovah strengthens”) and Elidad (“My God has loved”). Some refer to his attributes, qualities, and virtues, such as Jozadak (“Jehovah is just,” or “Jehovah is righteous”) and Eliada (“God knows”). Some refer to his majesty and glory, such as Athaliah (“Jehovah is exalted,” or “Jehovah is strong”) and Eliphaz (“My God is fine gold”). Some refer to his omnipotence, such as Jahaziel (“God sees”).

The names of many of the Old Testament prophets were also witnesses of God and his powers and attributes: Daniel (“God is a judge”), Elijah (“My God is Jehovah”), Elisha (“God shall save,” or “God is salvation”), Ezekiel (“God strengthens”), Isaiah (“Jehovah is salvation”), Jeremiah (“Jehovah raises up”), Joel (“Jehovah is God”), Michael (“One who is like God”). (See accompanying chart “Hebrew Names and Their Meanings.”)

Although many of the ancient Israelites were simply following established custom in so naming their children, others undoubtedly used names this way to help themselves and their children observe the first great commandment among Saints of all ages—to love the Lord their God. (See Deut. 6:5–7.)

The Name of the Lord

In our society today, naming our children after qualities and attributes of God—except as the words are concealed in Hebrew or other foreign-language names—seems strange to some people. Still, Church members are all known by the Lord’s name, and we covenant weekly to take his name upon us. In the sacramental prayer, we “witness” unto God that we “are willing to take upon [us] the name of [his] Son.” (D&C 20:77.)

This practice also dates back to Old Testament times. The Lord said to Abraham, “I will take thee, to put upon thee my name.” (Abr. 1:18.) To Moses he declared, “[Aaron and his sons] shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” (Num. 6:27.)

King Benjamin taught that “there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ. …

“Whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 5:8–9.) We not only take upon us the Lord’s name, but we will also be called by that name.

Who will call us by His name? Benjamin answers that it is the Master himself: “Remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, … that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.” (Mosiah 5:12.)

Alma reiterated this important principle: “The good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ.” (Alma 5:38.)

Many of us are not given names that remind us to follow the Lord and live the gospel. But the Lord’s name, which we have covenanted to take upon us, can provide both model and motivation. By remembering that we are called after the greatest Man who ever lived, and by seeking to become more like him, both we and our children can more consistently walk the straight path that leads us back to our Father.

Hebrew Names and Their Meanings

The following are Hebrew given names that tell us something about God. Each teaches a different principle, helping us to better understand the significance of names in the Old Testament and giving us renewed witnesses of God himself. (The Hebrew form of the name most often used is Yah. More familiar is the English form, Jehovah, which is the one used in this article. For El, the article uses God.) Note: Most of these names were given to sons, a few to daughters, and several to either sons or daughters. Many names have been translated differently by different scholars. Where significant differences exist, alternate translations are supplied.

Names that Teach of the Atonement

Athaiah—Jehovah has succored or has made
Eliphelet—My God rescues
Elishua—My God is salvation
Isaiah—Jehovah is salvation
Izrahiah—Jehovah will arise
Jeremiah—Jehovah raises up
Joshua—Jehovah saves or helps
Mehujael—God causes to live, or Smitten of God
Paltiel—God is my deliverance
Pedaiah—Jehovah ransoms
Pelaliah—Jehovah has mediated or arbitrated or interceded
Raphael—God has healed

Names that Teach of God’s Relationship to Us

Abijah—Jehovah is my father
Adonijah—Jehovah is my Lord
Adriel—Flock of God
Ahijah—My brother is Jehovah
Ammiel—People of God, or My kinsman is God
Daniel—God is a judge
Dodavah—Beloved of Jehovah
Eldaah—God has called or loved
Eleazar—God has helped
Elijah—My God is Jehovah
Gabriel—Man or warrior of God
Hodiah—Praise of Jehovah, or God is my splendor, or Splendor is of Jehovah
Jedidiah—Loved by Jehovah
Lemuel—Belonging to God
Malchiel—My king is God
Micah (and Michaiah)—Who is like Jehovah
Michael—One who is like God
Mikneiah—Possession of Jehovah
Obadiah—Servant of Jehovah
Reuel—Friend of God

Names that Teach of God’s Blessings to Us

Ahaziah—Jehovah upholds or holds firm
Amasiah—Jehovah has borne
Anaiah—Jehovah has answered
Ananiah—Protected or covered by Jehovah
Azaziah—Strengthened or helped by Jehovah
Azriel—My help is God
Barachel—God blesses
Elhanan—God shows favor or is gracious
Eliakim—God sets upright or raises up
Eliashib—God causes to return or restores
Elidad—My God has loved
Elisha—God shall save or is salvation
Elisheba—God of the oath
Elnathan—God has given
Gaddiel—My fortune is God
Gamaliel—My reward is God, or Recompense of God
Gedaliah—Jehovah has magnified
Haggiah—Jehovah is my festival
Hananeel—God has shown favor or is gracious
Hashabiah—Jehovah has taken into account or considered
Hezekiah—My strength is Jehovah, or Jehovah strengthens
Ibnijah—Jehovah builds
Igdaliah—Jehovah makes great or is great
Immanuel—God is with us
Ishmael—God hears
Israel—God contends, or He strives with God
Jehoiakim—Jehovah raises up
Jehoshabeath—Jehovah is an oath, or Abundance or Wholeness of Jehovah
Joezer—Jehovah is help
Johanan—Jehovah has shown favor
Jonathan—Jehovah has given
Josiah—Jehovah supports or gives
Jozabad—Jehovah has bestowed, or Jehovah is a gift
Nathanael (or Nathaneel)—God has given
Nedabiah—He whom Jehovah fills to overflowing
Nehemiah—Jehovah consoles, or Comfort of Jehovah
Pekahiah—Jehovah has opened, or Jehovah open his eyes
Semachiah—Jehovah has sustained or supported
Shelumiel—God is my peace
Shemariah—Jehovah has guarded or kept or preserved
Uriah—Jehovah is light or fire
Zephaniah—Jehovah protects or has concealed or has sheltered

Names that Teach of God’s Majesty and Glory

Adaiah—Jehovah has adorned or ornamented himself
Adiel—God is an ornament
Athaliah—Jehovah is exalted or strong
Eliphaz—My God is fine gold
Eliud—My God is his praise or majesty
Jehoram—Jehovah is high
Jochebed—Jehovah is glory
Joel—Jehovah is God
Zerahiah—Jehovah has shone or arisen or dawned

Names that Teach of God’s Qualities, Attributes, and Works

Amaziah—Jehovah is mighty or strong
Asahel—God has made
Asareel—God has bound
Chenaniah—Jehovah is steadfast
Elead—God has testified
Eliada—God knows
Elizur—My God is a rock
Elkanah—God has created or taken possession
Elnaam—God is pleasantness or gracious
Elpaal—God has acted
Hasadiah—Jehovah is faithful
Hazael—God has seen
Jabneel—God causes to be built, or God is builder
Jahdiel—God rejoices
Jahzeel—Jehovah divides
Jathniel—God has given or is constant
Jecoliah—Jehovah can
Jehoaddan—Jehovah is pleasing
Jehoiachin—Jehovah has established or raises up
Jehoshaphat—Jehovah judges or establishes justice
Jezreel—God sows
Joed—Jehovah is witness
Jonadab—Jehovah is generous or noble
Jozadak—Jehovah is just or righteous
Maaziah—Jehovah is a fortress or a refuge
Mehetabel—God does good
Pethuel—Vision or Sincerity or Youthfulness of God
Tabeel—God is good
Zechariah—Jehovah remembers


Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. E. Robinson, 2d. ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951).

Madeleine S. Miller and J. Lane Miller, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 8th ed. (New York, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1973.)

O. Odelain and R. Seguineau, Dictionary of Proper Names and Places in the Bible, trans. Matthew J. O‘Connell (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981).

Jay A. Parry serves as bishop of the South Cottonwood (Utah) Third Ward.

His brother, Donald W. Parry, is an instructor in biblical Hebrew at Brigham Young University and Scout committee chairman in the Grandview Fourth Ward, Provo, Utah.