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Emmanuel: What's In A Name?

Posted by Lorraine Serra on December 10, 2010 at 7:04 PM

What’s in a name?


We hear the familiar words of the season from Isaiah 9: 

For unto us a Child is born, a  Son is given and His name shall be called….Immanuel or Emmanuel... God is with us.


Theophory  is the practice of embedding the name of God or a deity in a person’s name, a common practice in the ancient world,


The Old Testament is full of such names.  Most commonly the word for God, “El”  is used in some familiar examples:

Bethel – house of God,  Daniel – judged by God, 

Elisha-Salvation of God,   Elizabeth-My God is Oath,

Ezekiel-My God will strengthen, 

Michael – Who is like God? A question. 

Nathaniel- Given by God,

Raphael, -- God is healing,  Rachel—sheep of God,   Samuel—heard of God,


Less well known but beautiful theophoric names include

Zeruel --  arm of God,  Uzziel---power of God, 

Ramiel—Thunder of God,  Gamaliel—Reward of God

Eliana—my God answers, Chakel—Wisdom of God,  Barachiel—Kindness of God,  Asmodel--Greatness of God

Ariel—Lion of God, Ambriel—Energy of God


That’s only the tip of the iceberg!

Samael- Venom of God,  Satanael---Adversary of God, Za’afiel—Wrath of God


There is also the theophory  of Yahweh/Yah (Jah)    YHWH in Hebrew the name for God in 4 letters representing

“I AM WHO AM”:


Adonijah – God is my Father,  Amariah—integrity of God,  Ananiah– protected by Yah

Hezekiah – God has strengthened, 

Isaiah---Salvation of God, 

Jeconiah—God has firmly established,

Jehoshaphat—God is judge, Jeremiah—God appointed,   Nehemiah---God comforts,

Obadiah – God’s servant, worshiper, 

Odelia—Thanks to Yah, 

Shecaniah—one intimate with Yahweh

Uriah—my light is Yahweh, 

Zedekiah---justice of Yahweh, 

Zephaniah -  Yahweh protects,

Zechariah-Yahweh remembers


Why all this attention and effort paid to create names embedded with a word for God?

 

 

All these names tied to God existed for centuries before the famous Isaiah 9 prophecy of One whose name would be completely different:  Immanuel or Emmanuel.  Emanu means "with us" and  "el" means God.


Christians hold Isaiah’s words as the promise of the messiah, Jesus Christ, who would bring glory to the little seaside town of Galilee,as mentioned in verse 1 of Isa 9.


Jews  interpret it as literally the birth of the good future king of Judah, Hezekiah, who would remove idol worship and restore the faithful practice of covenant relationship with Yahweh God, which, in fact he did.


Did you know the Qur’an makes mention of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the virgin Mary?  It relates promises that this divine son will be called Jesus, and he will be a messiah and prophet to the people, an example of righteous living.


Why so many different interpretations and such attention to this name, Emanuel?


There are at least 20 Jewish Temples called Emanuel,

or Emanu El in the United States.


Countless Christian churches bear the name Emanuel or Immanuel.


Miraculous births abound in every religious tradition, and from ancient times.  Consider Greek and Roman literature where the gods joined with humans to bring heroes into the world like Hercules and Perseus.


The Roman Caesars were thought to be sons of gods, and divine themselves.  Myths from the texts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism point to miraculous births of their inspired leaders.


Ancient Egyptian kings and pharaohs were also considered to be “divine” and favored by their many gods.


Islam, Judaism and Christianity recognize the miraculous births of Biblical persons such as Isaac born to the very old Abram and Sarai.   In Jewish rabbinic literature, Moses, the liberator of the Hebrews from pharaoh, is miraculously depicted as having been born already circumcised and able to walk and talk on the day of his birth.  The tale mentions the peculiar and glorious light that filled the house at his birth. 


The Christian Old Testament only tells of the miraculous preservation of Moses in a basket among the reeds and subsequent adoption into pharaoh’s house.


Then there is the miraculous conception of John the baptizer to another very old couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Remember also the miracle in Zechariah’s life: struck dumb as he expressed doubt over the conception of a child at their advanced age; restored voice to proclaim in faith, at the birth, his name isJohn!  Did you notice the meanings of these names?


In my brief study this week, I see that the desire of humans to connect with the divine is overwhelming. The wonder, the awe, the inexplicable majesty and intricacies of life have been explained through myth and legend…and Truth. 


Deciphering one from the other is the challenge with which historians and scholars and believers have wrestled and debated for centuries.


The commonality I see:  most humans believe and we desire GOD WITH US.


Unchallenged though remains the historic life of Jesus Christ whose presence on the earth shook the world and continues to do so in the lives of his disciples.


Why did God not make it plain, make it clear?    Gabriel could have said to Mary, “You shall call him Emmanuel, God with us, infulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy."


Or Isaiah could have said “He shall be called, Immanuel Jesus Christ, God with us, Messiah.”  That would have cleared things up a bit.  But, no.


I believe that God, in His sovereign wisdom,  has left the mystery to each individual:  Will you truly seek him, will you dig and study,  pray and ask until you find Him?  (Jeremiah 29:13) (Isaiah 55:6)


I believe this is in keeping with God’s Holy Word.  God desires love from a pure heart, and obedience more than sacrifice. Welcome the Child born in a manger into your heart to reign as King and Lord of your life.  God is with us. Thank you for coming, Emmanuel!

 

 

 

 

 


Categories: Insprirational

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1 Comment

Reply Marianne
2:57 PM on December 28, 2012 
Thanks for making what is "old", new again and more important than ever.