God changed some people’s names to show a change in their lives . In the Bible, the name had an important meaning and often said something about the person’s character. A name change signaled an important change in the person’s life.
In Bible times, the name was important and was often chosen according to the person’s character, or the circumstances of his life, or with some hope for the future. When God changed a person’s name, it indicated that he was also changing something very important in that person’s life .
Giving a name was also a way of showing authority over the person or thing that was named. Adam named the animals ( Genesis 2:19 ), parents named their children, masters gave names to slaves, and God named some of His followers.
Names that God changed in the Bible
Several people changed their names or had more than one name in the Bible. But not everyone had their names changed by God. The Bible says that God directly changed the names of four people:
Abram to Abraham
Abram means “exalted father” but Abraham means “father of the nations”. Abram was an elderly man with no children but God promised him that his descendants would be impossible to count ! God changed his name to Abraham to reflect that promise ( Genesis 17: 5-6 ).
Here is the story of Abraham.
Sara for Sara
Sarai’s meaning is uncertain but Sara means “princess”. God promised that Sarai, the elderly and barren woman, would become Sarah, the mother of kings and princes ( Genesis 17: 15-16 ).
Jacob to Israel
Jacob means “he holds the heel” or “treacherous”. Israel means “he fights with God”. Before God changed his life, Jacob was deceitful and treacherous but one day he struggled with the angel of God. That day, his life changed and he became a different man. Therefore, God called him Israel ( Genesis 32: 27-28 ).
See also: 5 meetings with God that marked the life of Jacob.
Simon to Peter
Simon means “he heard” and Peter means “rock” or “stone”. Simon was a follower of Jesus. When he confessed that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus changed his name to Peter to show that this faith would be the foundation of the church , like the foundation stone for a house ( Matthew 16: 16-18 ).
In addition to changing the names of these four people, God also named some people when they were born:
- Isaac – Genesis 17:19
- The sons of the prophet Hosea – Hosea 1: 3-9
- John the Baptist – Luke 1:13
- Jesus – Matthew 1: 20-21
All of these names were prophetic names or had a special meaning about the mission or destiny of these people.
Other names that have been changed in the Bible
Some people in the Bible who had their names changed by others were:
- Joseph of Egypt was called Zafenate-Panea by the pharaoh – Genesis 41: 44-45
- Hosea was called Joshua by Moses – Numbers 13:16
- Gideon became known as Jerubaal – Judges 6:32
- Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Misael and Azariah had their names changed in Babylon to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, respectively – Daniel 1: 6-7
- Saul became known as Paul – Acts of the Apostles 13: 9