What defines you?
Is it your job, your relationships, your appearance or where you come from?
Is it a name?
In the Old Testament, children’s names have meaning.
When Abraham and Sarah had a son, they named him Isaac – which means laughter as both parents had laughed when God told them they were finally going to have a child.
When Isaac had twin sons, one was given the name Esau as he was apparently red and hairy while the other was named Jacob, or “heel catcher”.
This also meant trickster.
And for the first part of his life, Jacob lives up to that name.
He bought his brother’s birthright, which is a double portion of the inheritance as well as the future leader of the family, with a bowl of stew.
He stole his older brother’s blessing by conspiring with his mother who favored Jacob. Basically, while Esau was out of the way hunting, they went behind his back, cooked up a meal, and disguised Jacob to feel and smell like his older brother. Isaac was confused at first (he was blind), but he ended up blessing him anyways to the distress of Esau (Genesis 27).
Esau was quite angry and was ready to kill Jacob after Isaac passed away, though that wouldn’t happen for a few decades. But Rebekah was concerned and told Jacob to flee by going to her brother Laban’s house and marrying one of his daughters.
So, Jacob says his goodbyes to both his mother and father and travels to Padann Aram. As soon as he arrives, he sees one of Laban’s daughters – Rachel, for the first time and it’s love at first sight.
To show off, he moves a big rock from the well for her so she can water her father’s flocks. In return, he kisses her in greeting and starts to weep. Jacob lets her know they are cousins, and his uncle comes out to meet him and welcomes Jacob into his home.
A month goes by and Laban says to Jacob, “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.”
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
The term was agreed upon and Jacob works the years off though it feels like days because of his love for the beautiful Rachel (Genesis 29:20).
Laban throws a wedding feast for the entire neighborhood, but gives his oldest daughter, Leah, to his nephew after Jacob is probably quite intoxicated and can’t tell the difference between one woman and another (one theory).
And when morning came, Jacob woke up with Leah! Raging, Jacob went to Laban and said, “What have you done to me? I worked seven years for Rachel!! Why have you tricked me?”
Laban replies, “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn. But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”
What can Jacob do? Laban tricked the trickster! He begrudgingly agrees and by the next week he is also married to Rachel.
Obviously, being married two women let alone two sisters is bound to create rivalry. We see how this unfolds in the competition to have children. In sum: God sees how Leah is unloved by Jacob and allows her to bear six sons to Rachel’s one (though another will be born to Rachel later on and she’ll die in childbirth).
But the names that Rachel and Leah decide to name their children are interesting as well as the children of their servants who they give to Jacob as concubines to bear even more children through them.
Reuben was named such because God had seen Leah’s misery.
Leah’s second son, Simeon, was named “one who hears” because God had heard Leah’s prayers.
Levi, out of hopes that Jacob would feel affection or an attachment to Leah.
Judah, out of praise that Leah was able to have four sons.
Then Rachel named her servant Bilhah’s children Dan and Naphtali for God’s vindication and her struggle against her sister.
The list continues: Gad for “good fortune”, Asher for “happy”, Issachar for “reward”, Zebulun for “honor” and Joseph for “may he add”.
What is your name?
Did you know if we trust in Christ for our salvation, we will receive a new name in heaven?
“To the one who conquers… I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)
I wonder what my new name will be sometimes.
What would you want your name to be?
God renames quite a few people in the Bible. Spoiler alert: Jacob eventually is renamed Israel, and that name is still a nation and remembered thousands of years later.
Jacob’s legacy is not for being the trickster, it’s for being the father of the tribes of Israel.
What would you want your legacy to be?
What would you want to be remembered for?
Many people choose a word for the new year to live by. I challenge you to choose two words. One for what you feel like defines you now and one for who you would like to be.
Personally, one word I’d like to eradicate from my life is “worry” and I’d like to turn it into “trust” or “courageous”.
Who do you want to be in 2022? Set your course today.
In love and truth,
Copyright © 2020 by Melody Turner. All rights reserved. Written exclusively for MXTV (https://mxtv.org/whats-in-a-name/) No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from MXTV.