God is a Name-Giving God

Daily writing prompt
If you could have something named after you, what would it be?

Here is a Facebook post from Chad Bird that shows the connection between names and existence.

The Messenger in the OT Who Shared God’s Name Is the Son of God

An easily overlooked part of the creation account—but one that is crucial to understand—is that God is a name-giving Lord. And these names are inextricably linked to existence itself.

The Hebrew verb used for naming is קרא (qārāʾ), which is usually translated “call.” God “called [קרא] the light Day, and the darkness he called [קרא] Night” (1:5). Also, “God called [קרא] the expanse Heaven” (v. 8 ), he “called [קרא] dry land Earth,” and the waters “he called [קרא] Seas” (v. 10).

In Genesis 2, the Lord gives to Adam, his kingly image-bearer on earth, the God-like duty of name-giving. The Lord brought to the man all the animals “to see what he would call [קרא] them. And whatever the man called [קרא] every living creature, that was its name” (v. 19). Later, Adam said that the newly formed creature, who was formed from his side, “shall be called [קרא] Woman” (2:23).

Notice: in each of these examples, creation is followed by naming. The name completes the creation process.

This biblical model reflects other ancient Near Eastern understandings of the intimate connection between Existence and Name. The Jewish scholar, Nahum Sarna, discusses how, in the Babylonian creation account (Enuma Elish), we hear of “the time before names had been given to heaven and earth.” And “an Egyptian text portrays the pre-creation state of the world as the time ‘when no name of anything had yet been named.’” Sarna concludes: “Not to have a name meant nonexistence” (On the Book of Psalms).

So, where are we going with this? In the Bible, names are not just a handy way of being able to identify something; they are enmeshed with identity or essence itself. A name is not just an empty word or label but is virtually identical with that which is named.

The implications of this are manifold, so I will just impress one upon you. If you are familiar with my book The Christ Key, you know that I spend quite a bit of time arguing that the Messenger of the LORD (often translated “angel of the LORD”) in the OT is the Son of God.

Notice what is said about this Messenger in Exodus 23:21, “my name is in him.” This is a shocking and revealing declaration! If God’s name is in this Messenger, then who God is, his existence, his essence, his being, is in this Messenger. The Lord is not saying, “I’ve handed him my name tag.” He’s saying, “Who I am is also in him.”

This is the Hebrew way of saying what the later Greek creeds will call homoousios, that is, “of the same essence.” We confess in the Nicene Creed that Jesus was “begotten, not made, being of one substance [homoousios] with the Father…”

When the Lord says, in Exodus, that he has put his name in his Messenger, he is saying (in Hebrew fashion), that this Messenger is NOT a created angel. No, this Messenger is “being of one substance” with Yahweh, bearing his name, filled with his identity, distinguished from but also inseparable from him.

God’s own name, self-bestowed, eternal, expressive of his identity and essence, is shared with the One whom he has sent. In unity with the NT, the OT proclaims the full divinity of the Son of God.


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