What does the Bible say about a good name?
Unlike today where we picked names that sound good to us or that we like, many times seeking to find a name that no one else has did make our children unique, names are very important in the Bible.
A person’s name housed their reputation. You could even tell a little bit about a person’s entire life story from his or her name. Because name is directly related to reputation, and everyone who hears your name knows your reputation, much wisdom literature counsels that it is better to have a good name (Ecclesiastes 7:1; Proverbs 22:1).
“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, ESV)
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, ESV)
In both instances, the counsel is that a good name is more precious and worth much more even then riches of all kinds. Better than being rich, a good name (good reputation) is extremely important.
Because of some of the names matching the reputations of individuals in the Old Testament, it’s better to be named well. You will go much farther with a good reputation and with wealth.
One of the best examples of this idea of the person’s character being understood by his name is Jacob. He and Esau were twins, and his parents had to mark which one came out first because Jacob grabbed his brother’s heel to try to come out first.
His name, Jacob, means “heal grabber, or deceiver.” Just reading about his life shows you what it deceiver Jacob Wise. He used deception to get everything he had in life. Through deception, he stole Esau’s birthright as the firstborn son, stole his blessing as the firstborn son, stole flocks from his uncle, and the list goes on.
Although, his uncle got him back. He wanted to marry Rachel, the younger sister instead of Leah. But the night of his wedding, or I should say the next morning, he found out that he works seven years for Leah first. He had to work another seven for Rachel. And his favoritism between the two sisters fueled sibling rivalry every time they wanted children.
Jacob’s lifestyle of deception changed dramatically when Jacob finally freed himself and his family from his uncle to return to his homeland. On the way back, as he tried to figure out how to scheme against his brother Esau, thinking for sure that his brother wanted to kill him for the way he treated him before he fled to his uncle, Jacob was at it again.
The night before he met up with Esau, he faced down the angel of the Lord (probably Jesus pre-incarnate) and fought with him all night long. He could not gain the upper hand. In the early morning, the angel told him to let him go.
Jacob refused to let go until the angel blessed him. Once again, he was trying to deceive to get what he wanted. Instead, the angel demanded of him, “What’s your name.” Through this interaction, Jacob was exposed for what he was, a deceiver. In telling the angel his name, he admitted that he was a deceiver.
In one of the most powerful places in the Old Testament, the angel changes his name from Jacob (“Deceiver”) to Israel (He Fights with God”). This is why we are almost sure that the angel of the Lord here is Jesus pre-incarnate. Jacob fought with the angel of the Lord, not God himself. But if Jesus is the angel of the Lord, then Jacob fought with God.
We study the names of God for the same reason. Each one of God’s names means something very special and tells more about his character. For instance, Yahweh Yireh (Jehovah Jireh) means “The Lord My Provider.” And God is our Provider. The name shows part of his reputation and character. All of his names hold great meaning to unlocking his character and reputation.
So you see, a good name is worth much more than wealth. Your reputation is way more important than dollars in the bank. The way people react to you and your reputation determines much of your future.