“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet, Act II. Scene II
Really? Is not a name important? If you called a rose “fetid” would it smell as sweet?
In the ancient Hebrew culture, a person’s name, or “shem,” was significant. It told of the person’s character: of his birth or some future hope. God often changed a person’s name after His call came into their life.
Take Paul for example:
His given name was Saul, which means “desired” or “asked for” in Hebrew. It was changed to Paul – which means “small” or “little” in Greek – after his conversion. The bold and dangerous Pharisee was sent in humility to witness to the Gentiles of Greece.
And then there was Peter, whose name was Simon (meaning “he has heard”). His name was changed by Jesus to Peter – meaning “rock or stone.” It was upon his faith that Jesus was the Christ that the Church was built.
Was it not Jacob (“heel holder” or “supplanter”) who stole Esau’s (Esau means “hairy”) birthright, and thus, supplanting Esau, by tricking Isaac into blessing him instead of his elder brother.
It was as though by calling a child by a particular name, one could predict the future character of the person the babe would grow to be. And so, as I began my journey through the Hills of Ephraim that I took great pains to name the characters within my novel according to their given purpose.
Each name has a specific meaning in relation to their role in the telling of this epic tale.
There is Nagad, the haunted protagonist, whose name means “messenger” in Hebrew. His story reaches us through the warfare in his life, both physical and spiritual, as he works through old hurts to find how he measures into Yahweh’s plans.
His foil, Ekwesh, is a Philistine struggling with the same issues of faith as his counterpart. His name is found in writings describing the Sea Peoples of old, and the ancient Greek warriors such as Homer’s Achaeans in the Iliad.
Tiphcar (“captain” in Hebrew), his very name denotes strength and leadership, is captain of the Israelite forces. He is a pillar of courage on which the young conscript, Nagad, can lean.
And so the characters enter into the midst of the story, each bringing a message to the reader by the name they bear.
So what is in a name? Join the story and see what message the characters have for you.
THE STONE OF EBENEZER