Some believe an individual is not capable of understanding Bible truth unless they understand the original Bible languages. To the best of my knowledge, Jesus did not tell his apostles to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to read, write and speak in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek (much less Latin). And yet the individuals hearing the gospel would still be able to have faith and enjoy salvation in Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16).
This is not to say understanding what an original language user would hear or see when listening to or reading the scriptures is void of value. Quite the contrary! Truth of the matter is, sometimes things get lost in translation and great lessons, however simple, are missed even though the possession of truth is still attainable. Hardly is this truth more apparent than when it comes to the names of God’s prophets of old and the importance of the meaning behind these names.
In our English tongue and English Bibles and English/American culture, we know the names of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, along with the additional names of the major and minor prophets. And to most of us, when we hear Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel that is all we hear – the names. But to the original tongues and ears of the speakers and readers, these names of the prophets meant so much more because they wouldn’t miss the “Yah’s” and the “El’s.” They would not miss the fact that when it came to these prophets, God was in their name and their name was their message!
When people heard and read the name “Isaiah” they would hear and see “Yesha’yahu/Yeshaiah” meaning “Yaweh is Salvation.”
When people heard and read the name “Jeremiah” they would hear and see “Yirmeyahu/Yirmeyah” meaning “Yahweh throws.”
When people heard and read the name “Ezekiel” they would hear and see “Yehezke’l” meaning “God strengthens/Strengthened by God.”
When people heard and read the name “Daniel” they would hear and see “Dani’el” meaning “God is my Judge.”
When people heard and read the name “Joel” they would hear and see “Yo’el” meaning “Yahweh is God.”
When people heard and read the name “Obadiah” they would hear and see “Obadyah” meaning “Worshiper of Yahweh.”
When people heard and read the name “Micah” they would hear and see “Michayahu/Michaia” meaning “Who is like Yahweh?”
When people heard and read the name “Zephaniah” they would hear and see “Tsephan-yah” meaning “Yahweh Hides.”
When people heard and read the name “Zechariah” they would hear and see “Zekar-yah” meaning “Yahweh Remembers.”
Do you see and hear the effect of understanding the meaning behind the name of the prophet(s) of God? Knowing the meaning of their name helps to understand why they talked about the topics we read about in the Bible. This is because their name not only reflected the source of their message – their name was their message. Not only does the latter point apply to the aforementioned prophets, it also applies to the remaining minor prophets not listed (of which a few seem to be a shortened version of a name that would have typically included an “el” or “yah”).
Understanding the meaning of the messenger’s name does not guarantee the message would or will be accepted by its hearers. But when one accepts the message of God’s speaker, and the speaker has a name that not only includes God but also a name that reflects the whole purpose of their message, then it helps us to remember the importance and the power behind the message being delivered to its listeners when we hear that particular name. So don’t get hung-up on the pronunciation of the names; get hung-up on what was being pronounced!
By the way, when it came to Jesus’ contemporaries, do you know the meaning behind the name they would say and hear when he was the topic of discussion? If you do not, you should learn the meaning – because knowing the meaning of Jesus’ name to his contemporaries means you’ll know who was behind his message and why his message was one we still read and talk about to this day! Sound like a familiar theme?