Name Lists, Part Two
In Name Lists, Part One, we looked at how names are used in the Bible to convey meaning about the person that has the name. We also noted that lists of names sometimes contain prophesy when we translate their meaning.
Let’s take a look at another name list, the sons of Jacob in their proper birth order. The 12 Tribes are not always listed this way, but a departure from the original order only means something if we know what the original was.
Jacob—the trickster—was himself tricked by his father- in-law, Laban, into marrying the older sister, Leah, before he could get the younger sister, Rachel, whom he loved. He worked for seven years for the right to marry Rachel and for seven more because of the trick.
After Leah bore four sons, Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a surrogate mother to have Dan and Naphtali. By this time, Leah had stopped bearing so she retaliated by giving her maid Zilpah to Jacob to have Gad and Asher. Leah later became fertile again and bore Issachar, Zebulon, and Dinah. Finally, Rachel repented, parted with her idols, and the Lord gave her Joseph and Benjamin, but she died as Benjamin was born.
According to mother and birth order, they were:
So let’s see what happens when we translate their names:
|Reuben||see, a son|
|Levi||joined (or married)|
|Joseph||may he add (sons)|
|Benjamin||son of my right hand|
If there is a message in this list of names, it might go something like this:
See, a Son!
He hears his people cry;
He is joined (married) to them.
Mighty in judgment,
Delivering from struggle,
As a troop He leads them out.
Happy are they,
For he is their reward
May He add sons without number to the Son of my right hand!
Consider, if you will, the greatness of the promises to Abraham compared to the difficulties Jacob and his sons had. They ended up going down to Egypt to beg for grain, settled the land of Goshen, and eventually became Pharaoh’s slaves. Perhaps God put this message into their names to inspire hope. In the Exodus, the message in their names was completely fulfilled as God heard their cries, judged Egypt, delivered them and formed them into a troop. Happy were they indeed, because the Lord was their reward and honor.
There is hope for us also, because the Lord has delivered and added sons and daughters without number to the Son of His right hand.