by: Neil Street
I recently had the opportunity to conduct a short but fascinating print interview with Judith Tropea, author of the recently-published book, “Classic Biblical Baby Names – Timeless Names for Modern Parents.”
At the outset, I was struck by a quotation from the book’s introduction — a quotation from Proverbs, 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Rather a bold statement, I thought, especially when many of us hold “great riches” in such high esteem!
What is there to say about a biblical name, or any name for that matter, that could make it so important? After all, isn’t a name just a name? As Shakespeare said, “what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
But would it?
In her book, Judith Tropea notes that “Names are an integral part of our identity. A child’s name affects his or her self-perception and reflects the parents’ beliefs and cultures. A name pays tribute to the individual spirit and is one of the first wonderful gifts you can offer your child.” When I asked her about this during our conversation, she said “A biblical name gives a baby a connection to spirituality that may be a springboard to finding spirituality later in life.”
I think that’s a pretty good reason for prospective parents to consider the names in the bible. and see what a treasure trove of names might be between the covers.
At my urging, Judith Tropea came up with 3 suggestions each for boy’s and girl’s names from the bible that are a little out of the ordinary, and that carry a positive spiritual message. For girls, the names were Dannah, Ivah, and Zaccai. For boys, Asher, Barak, and Jakim. I grabbed my copy of her book to see what the meanings and spiritual significance of these names might be.
The name Dannah literally means “judging.” It signifies a woman who stands for justice and fair play. Ivah means “overturning,” and it is a reminder that faith can move mountains. Zaccai means “just,” or “seeker of justice.” I was beginning to understand what the author meant about names affecting our self-perception.
The boy’s name Asher means “happy” or “blessed.” Barak, a name currently very prominent because of the senator from Illinois, means’ “flash of lightning,” and the spiritual connotation is “powered by God.” Jakim means “God lifts up,” and it symbolizes a man who lives his life as an example to other people.
Quite a remarkable group of names. “Classic Biblical Baby Names” is filled with examples of names like these, spelling out their literal and spiritual meanings, and how the names crop up in different biblical stories. Some of the names are quite well known, such as Adam, Paul, or Elizabeth; others, like Darius or Calah, are much more obscure. After my conversation with Judith Tropea, I found myself wanting to dig into her book more, to see what other little-known names and meanings are lurking in there.
I also found myself in the odd position of having to disagree with Shakespeare. Much as the great Bard knew his stuff, on this point I think he was mistaken — a rose, by any other name, sometimes may not smell as sweet.