Gahl E. Sasson


This paper discusses the use of naming in the Bible as a narrative tool . It demonstrates how the meanings of names propel the biblical narrative and provide insights into the nature of a character’s personality and fate . In addition, the paper suggests that characters’ names may have served as mnemonic devices to help the narrator recall the true essence of each story as well as shape its core message . To demonstrate these assertions, the paper examines the stories of Abraham (“father of multitudes”) and, briefly, his wife, Sarah; Moses (“draw,” as in from water); and King David (“beloved”) and, briefly, his lover, Jonathan . The etymology of each character’s name is demonstrated in the narrative in pivotal life events such as birth, career, and death . In the cases in which a name change occurs (Abraham, Sarah, and Jonathan), I examine the parallel change in the attitude of the character or in the trajectory of the story . Finally, the study calls for further research into the examination of names of disenfranchised groups in the Bible, such as servants and foreigners, as well as nations and their rulers, to determine whether those names similarly impact and reflect the narrative .