Bible Names                                                       Study No. 254


Today, when most babies are born they are usually given names that sound good to their parents without any thought to their meaning and if those names really suit the characteristics of the child they have just brought into the world.


In the Bible, names given to people by their parents, and sometimes by God, had meaning and described the person in question. The meaning of these names often give us clues to know more about the people we read about in the Bible.

The following table gives a list of all the major figures we read about in the Bible, including many who have become fathers of nations of the world.  Most of the meanings of these names have been obtained from Meredith’s Book of Bible Lists, by J.L. Meredith.


Adam and His family


Adam – humus, taken from the earth [God formed him out of the dust of the ground, Genesis 2:7]

Eve (Adam’s wife) – life, mother of all living, Genesis 3:20

Cain (Adam’s son) – gotten, gain, fabri­ca­tion [first human born, Genesis 4:1. Tradition indicates that Cain was black, Enoch 84:5]

Abel (Adam’s son) – meadow [Tradition indicates that Abel was reddish in skin color, Enoch 84:5]

Seth (Adam’s son) – appointed [Son appointed to Eve for the loss of Abel, Genesis 4:25. Both Bible, Genesis 5:3, and tradition, Enoch 84:11, indicate Seth was white].


Cain’s Descendants


Enoch – teacher; Irad – wild ass; Mehujael – God is combating; Methusael – man of God; Lamech – overthrower [slew a “young man,” possibly Enoch, Genesis 4:23.]; Jabal – river [pioneer of those who dwell in tents and herd cattle (Genesis 4:20)]; Jubal – trumpet [pioneer of all musicians, Genesis 4:21]; Tubal-Cain – flowing forth of Cain [pio­neer of metallurgy, Genesis 4:22]


Seth’s Descendants


Enos – man is his family; Cainan – acquisition; Mahalaleel – the praise of God; Jared – descending; Enoch – teacher [teacher of God’s ways (Jude 14)]

Methuselah – when he is dead, it shall be sent [“It” probably refers to the Flood. The oldest man in history died at the time of the Flood]

Lamech – overthrower

Noah – rest [his father felt Noah would comfort them from their toil on earth (Genesis 5:29)]


Noah’s Family


Namaah (Noah’s wife) – sweetness [ac­cording to tradition, Namaah was the name of Noah’s wife which isn’t recorded in the Bible]

Shem (Noah’s son) – name [father of the white nations of the earth]

Ham (Noah’s son) – dark, swarthy [the meaning of Ham disproves the idea that Noah’s sons were white and the races were preserved by Ham and Japheth racially intermarrying. God had to have miraculously added the extra genes into Noah and his wife, like He did with Adam and Eve, to preserve the races. Ham is the father of the black nations]

Japheth (Noah’s son) – persuader [father of the Oriental, Mediterranean, and Latin American peoples]


Japheth’s Descendants


Gomer – completion [father of the S.E. Asian peoples]

Gomer’s sons: Ashkenaz [a fire that spreads], Riphath [enemies] and Togarmah  [strong]

Magog – expansion [father of the Chinese people. In population, Magog truly has expanded. Often mentioned with Gog in prophecy, meaning a mountain or kingdom]

Madai – middle

Javan – clay [father of the swarthy Mediterranean peoples]

Javan’s sons: Elishah [God is saviour], Tarshish [hard – father of the Spanish and Japanese people], Kittim [they that bruise] and Dodanim [a leader]

Tubal – worldly [father of the Russians]

Meshech – drawing out

Tiras – desire of parents [father of the Red Indians of North and South America]


Ham’s Descendants


Cush – black [father of the Ethiopians and Indians]

Cush’s sons: Seba [old man], Havilah [circle], Sabtah [breaking through], Sabte­cha [surrender], Nimrod [hunter, valiant – a mighty hunter “before,” meaning against God (Genesis 10:8). The post flood world’s first dictator] and Raamah [trembling] – his sons were Sheba [seventh] and Dedan [low]

Mizraim – tribulations [father of the Egyptians]; Mizraim’s sons: Ludim [bending], Anamim (?), Lehabim [flame], Naphtuhim (?), Pathrusim [the south land] – father of the Nubians and Casluhim (?)

Put – extension [father of the West and South Africans and Indians]

Canaan – lowland; Canaan’s sons: Zidon [fortified] and Heth [terrible]


Shem’s Descendants


Elam – youth [father of the East Euro­peans]

Lud – bending [father of the Armenians]

Aram – exalted

Aram’s sons: Uz [firmness], Hul [circle], Gether [vale of trial] and Mash [drawn out – Same meaning as Moses]

Asshur – level plain [father of the Germanic peoples of Europe]

Arphaxad – one that releases [according to tradition, Arphaxad and Asshur were twin brothers]


Arphaxad’s Descendants


Salah – offshoot

Eber – a shoot [father of the Hebrews]

Peleg – division [in his day the earth was divided (Genesis 10:25), probably referring to the scattering of the peoples at the Tower of Babel.] His brother was Joktan [little]

Reu – friend; Serug – firmness; Nahor – snorer [What a lovely name!]; Terah – wandering

Terah’s sons: Abram [father of height – This suggests that Abraham was quite tall], Nahor [snorer] and Haran [enlightened]

Job – he that weeps [when tested by God, he had a very hard life]


Abraham and His Family


Abraham – father of nations [God changed his name from Abram, Genesis 17:5]

Sarah (Abraham’s wife) – queen, or princess of the multitude [ori­ginally her name was Sarai, meaning princess, Genesis 17:15]

Hagar (Abraham’s Concubine) – fugitive [She had to flee when Sarah chased her away]

Ishmael (Abraham’s son) – God hears [God heard the affliction of Hagar by promising Ishmael would be a father of a great multitude of people known to us as the Arabs, Genesis 16:10-11]

Isaac (Abraham’s son) – laughing one [Sarah laughed at the promise given her age and then laughed for joy at his birth, Genesis 21:6]

Lot (Abraham’s nephew) – concealed Lot’s sons: Moab [desire] – father of Moa­bites) and Ben-Ammi [son of my people] – Father of Ammonites)


Isaac’s Family


Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) – captivating

Esau (Isaac’s son) – hairy [father of the Turkish people and Palestinians]

Jacob (Isaac’s son) – supplanter [God changed his name to Israel meaning “over­comer with God.” We are all to become spiritual Israelites – overcomers with God. The church is called the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

Jacob’s wives: Leah [wearied], and Rachel [ewe]


Jacob’s Sons


Reuben – behold a son [father of the French]

Simeon – hears and obeys [scattered throughout the Israelite peoples]

Levi – joined [scattered throughout the Israelite peoples]

Judah – praise of the Lord [father of the Jews. We are to become spiritual Jews – “praised of God,” Romans 3:29]

Zebulun – dwelling [father of the Dutch]

Isaachar – reward [father of the Finns]

Dan – he that judges [father of the Irish]

Gad – good fortune [father of the French- speaking Swiss]

Asher – happiness [father of the Bel­gians]

Naphtali – obtained by wrestling [father of the Swedes]

Benjamin – son of the right hand [origin­ally called Ben-oni meaning “son of my sorrow,” father of the Norwegians]

Joseph – may God add [father of the English-speaking peoples]


Joseph’s Sons


Ephraim – doubly fruitful [father of British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand people. Doubly fruitful in that Joseph’s sons had the double blessing of the birthright and the British Empire was the greatest of all time.]

Manasseh – causing forgetfulness [father of the American people. His birth made Joseph forget his ordeal in prison where he was wrongfully imprisoned for alleged rape]


Moses and Some Figures in Exodus Story


Moses – drawn from [drawn from the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter. He may have been called Hapi-moses “drawn from Hapi (Nile god),” later dropping the Hapi. Moses is an Egyptian name seen in the names of the pharaohs such as Ra-moses (Ramses – drawn from Ra) and Thutmoses (drawn from Thoth)]

Aaron – enlightened [Moses’ brother and first High Priest of Israel]

Miriam – bitterness [Moses’ sister. Her name means the same as Mary, the mother of Jesus]

Joshua – Jehovah is salvation [Successor to Moses. Saviour in the sense he was a type of Christ leading Israel to the Promised Land]

Caleb – bold [He and Joshua were the bold spies who urged the people to take the land with God’s help]

Pharaoh – the destroyer [name for rulers of Egypt]

Agag – warlike [King of Amalek. Ama­lek means “dweller in the vale,” remind­ing us of the ambush they made on Israel near Mt. Sinai]

Baalam – lord of the people [soothsayer hired by Balak, worshipper of Baal, a Meso­potamian god whose name means Lord]

Balak – waster [King of Moab]


The Judges of Israel


Othniel – lion of God [led Israel to vic­tory against the king of Mesopotamia, Judges 3:9-10]

Ehud – strong [killed Eglon and delivered Israel from Moab, Judges 3:15-30]

Shamgar – cupbearer [delivered Israel from the Philistines, Judges 3:31]

Deborah – bee [helped lead Israel against Canaan, Judges 4]

Barak – thunder [helped Deborah fight against Canaan]

Gideon – great warrior [led Israel to victory against the Midianites, Judges 6-8]

Abimelech – father of the king

Tola – scarlet

Jair – Jehovah arouses

Jephthah – he sets free [set Israel free from the Ammonites, Judges 11]

Ibzan – active

Elon – strong

Abdon – cloud of judgment

Samson – strong [strongest man ever, delivered Israel from the Philistines, Judges 13-16]

Eli – my God

Samuel – asked of God [his birth was an answer to a prayer of his mother Hannah, I Samuel 1:12-20]


The Kings of Israel (United Kingdom)


Saul – demanded [He was the king God gave Israel when they demanded to have a king like the other nations]

David – beloved [the man after God’s own heart]

Solomon – peace [in his day Israel enjoyed great peace and prosperity]


Well-known Kings of Judah


Rehoboam – freer of the people [he had the chance to free his people from the tax burden imposed on Israel by his father but listened to bad counsel and made it heavier thus resulting in the split of Israel into two nations]

Asa – physician [grandson of Rehoboam and a good king]

Jehoshaphat – Jehovah is judge [son of Asa and another good king]

Uzziah – strength of the Lord [a good king until struck by God with leprosy for burning incense which only the priests could do]

Hezekiah – Jehovah is strength [a good king]

Josiah – fire of the Lord [had a fire to do God’s will]


Well-known Kings of Israel


Jeroboam – enlarges [first king of the ten-tribed Kingdom of Israel]

Ahab – father’s brother [bad king and husband of Jezebel]


Post Exile Figures of the Jewish People


Esther – a star

Nehemiah – Jehovah has consoled

Ezra – help

Zerubbabel – an offspring of Babel


Gentile Rulers


Tiglath-pileser – binds [Assyrian king also known as Pul (strong)]

Shalmaneser – peace taken away [Assyri­an king and conqueror]

Sargon – constituted king [Assyrian king]

Sennacherib – moon god [Assyrian king]

Esarhaddon – victorious [Assyrian king]

Nebuchadnezzar – defend the boundary [defended and expanded the Neo-Babylonian Empire]

Evil-Marduk – man of the god Marduk [Babylonian king]; Belshazzar – the Lord’s leader [Babylon­ian king]

Cyrus – an heir [Persian king]; Darius – he that informs himself [Persian king]; Artaxerxes – possessor of an exalted king­dom [Persian king]

Caesar – one cut out [meaning refers to Juilus Caesar’s birth by Caesarian section. Following Roman Emperors took the title Caesar, from which the names Tsar and Kaiser are derived]

Herod – son of the hero

Pilate – one armed with a dart

Agrippa – one who at birth causes pain


The Prophets


Isaiah – salvation is of the Lord

Jeremiah – exalted of God

Ezekiel – God is strong

Daniel – God is my judge

Hosea – salvation

Joel – Jehovah is God

Amos – one with a burden [his pro­phecies about the punishments to fall upon various nations are called burdens]

Obadiah – worshipper of Jehovah

Jonah – a dove

Micah – who is like Jehovah

Nahum – compassionate

Habakkuk – love’s embrace

Zephaniah – God hides

Haggai – festive

Zechariah – Jehovah remembers

Malachi – messenger of Jehovah [prophe­sied of the messenger of the Lord to prepare the way for Christ]

Jesus Christ – Saviour and Anointed One [Son of God, Saviour of all mankind and anointed King of kings of the soon-coming Kingdom of God]


The Original Disciples

(Apostles except Judas)


Peter – a stone [later became a rock of stability and leadership for the Church]

James (two of them) – supplanter

John – Jehovah has been gracious

Andrew – manliness

Philip – warrior

Thomas – honored of God [despite being known as “Doubting Thomas”]

Bartholomew – son of Tolmai

Matthew – gift of Jehovah

Simon – hearing

Thaddaeus – breast

Judas – praise of the Lord [his actions became very unpraiseworthy when he betrayed Christ]


Other Apostles Mentioned in the Bible


Matthias (Acts 1:26) – gift of God [took over Judas’ role as one of the original twelve]

Paul (Romans 11:13) – little [apparently short in stature, but also humble and little in spirit. Apostle to the Gentiles]

Barnabas (Acts 14:14) – son of encour­agement

Andronicus (Romans 16:7) – conqueror

Junia (Romans 16:7) – belonging to Juno

James (Jesus’ brother) (Galatians 1:19) – supplanter

Silvanus (I Thessalonians 1:1, 2.6) – lover of words

Timothy (I Thessalonians 1:1, 2.6) – honored of God

— by Roger Waite, Brisbane, Australia W


Additional Material to Write for:  Hitchcock’s Bible Names, 33 pp., $3 from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.