The Bible reveals that names are so significant that they can affect a person’s character and destiny.
In the case of Abraham and Sarah, God actually changed their names to suit the destiny He had planned for them.
When Abram and Sarai came into the land of Canaan, God promised to make them into a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
There was, however, one seemingly insurmountable problem to the fulfillment of this promise: they had remained childless well into their old age. There were no offspring from which to bring about this promised nation!
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.” (Genesis 16:1)
When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to him and made a small, but highly significant change to his name. He added one simple Hebrew letter – the letter hey (ה), which is often considered an abbreviation of the Hebrew name of God—Elohim (God).
“No longer will you be called Abram (אַבְרָ֑ם); your name will be Abraham (אַבְרָהָ֔ם), for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5)
God also added this letter to Sarai’s (שָׂרַ֣י) name, changing it to Sarah (שָׂרָ֖ה), meaning princess.
After God changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah, Sarah ceased being a barren woman and became the joyful mother of a son called Yitzchak (Isaac).
God even bestowed this name with great care (it means “laughter”), since both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they were told that she would have a son in her old age (Genesis 17:17,19 and Genesis 18:12).
The name also appropriately fit Sarah and Abraham’s joy at receiving the promise:
“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’” (Genesis 21:6)
In the process of making and fulfilling a covenant with Abram and Sarai, God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah by adding a letter from His name YHVH, thus linking their names with His. An amazing change resulted—they became fruitful in their old age.
Such is the amazing power inherent in a name, especially the name of God.
“They will still bear fruit in old age.” (Psalm 92:14)
While God paid close attention to the names given to various people in the Bible, He has also revealed to us His name in various forms. The Names of God demonstrate the multifaceted character and nature of His divine presence.
Here, we will look at three of those names:
- The Everlasting God: El Olam (אֵ֥ל עוֹלָֽם)
- The Lord Who Sanctifies You: YHVH Mekoddishkem (יְהוָ֖ה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם)
- Jealous God: El Kanna (אֵ֥ל קַנָּ֖א)
The Everlasting God: El Olam (אֵ֥ל עוֹלָֽם)
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God [El Olam].” (Genesis 21:33)
El is a singular name used for God. It means might, strength and power and is often combined with other Hebrew words such as Olam, which means world, universe, eternal, forever, everlasting time or space.
We understand from this name of God that He is the sovereign, eternal ruler of the entire universe who is beyond time or space.
El Olam is the Eternal God without a beginning or end.
“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
This name of God, El Olam, teaches us that God is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6).
His plans and purposes are timeless, and He will not fail to follow through with them (Isaiah 37:26).
“He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth.” (Isaiah 42:4)
Thus, we read in Genesis 21:33 that after Abraham entered into a peace treaty with Abimelech and Phicol at Beersheba, he called upon El Olam as a display of his faith that the Everlasting God would deliver on His covenant promise to give his descendants the Land.
Everything we see in the natural is temporal and subject to change, but like Abraham, we should not be moved by what we see since El Olam is the Eternal God who created the universe. He will not fail to accomplish His plans and promises.
“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4)
The Lord Who Sanctifies You: YHVH Mekoddishkem (יְהוָ֖ה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם)
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy [YHVH Mekoddishkem].” (Exodus 31:13)
This particular name of God occurs twice in Scripture—once in Exodus 31:13 and once in Leviticus 20:8.
Mekoddishkem is derived from the Hebrew word kadosh (קדש), which means to sanctify, dedicate, consecrate, set apart or make holy.
It’s apparent from these passages that God has consecrated His people and set them apart as holy (kadosh).
God does not just demand that we be holy; He Himself is holy. Without that holiness, His awesome power would be cruel.
And just as God is holy (1 Samuel 2:2), His people are to be holy, as well.
“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy [kadosh], because I am holy [kadosh].’” (1 Peter 1:15-16; Leviticus 19:2)
We are to be set apart for His purposes.
The Tanakh reveals that people (Exodus 32:29), places (Temple Mount), things (anointing oil, Temple articles and furnishings), and even a nation (Israel) were consecrated or set apart because they came in contact with the Holy God.
In the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant), both Jews and non-Jews are sanctified through the blood of Yeshua (Jesus). As a set apart people who have a personal relationship with God, we are to look and behave differently.
This should be evidenced in every aspect of our lives: the clothes we choose to wear, the way we speak to one another, the music we listen to, and the movies we watch. But sanctification is not just an outward act; it’s an inward work of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).
“God the Father knew you long ago and chose you to live holy lives with the Spirit’s help so that you are obedient to Yeshua HaMashiach and are sprinkled with His blood. May good will and peace fill your lives!” (1 Peter 1:2)
Yehovah Mekoddishkem desires that we be kadosh as He is kadosh, but for that to happen, we must willingly participate in His divine nature. Out of His holiness, He will not force holiness upon us.
But neither do we have to become holy through our own strength.
Through this name of God, we understand that it is He who makes us holy (Exodus 13:13).
Jealous God: El Kanna (אֵ֥ל קַנָּ֖א)
“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a Jealous God [El Kanna].” (Exodus 34:14)
Today, because relationships have become fraught with selfishness, distrust, and hostility, the word ‘jealousy’ carries a negative connotation.
Some even mistake jealousy and envy as one and the same thing; however, they are not identical.
Jealousy concerns a perceived challenge to one’s position. In other words, you think someone is trying to take your position as husband, wife, friend or employee, and you want to prevent that from happening.
Envy is more malevolent. It often involves covetousness, and an “if I can’t have it, you can’t either” attitude.
God’s jealousy, in contrast to envy is rooted in justice, holiness and love.
It is a healthy, passionate, burning devotion for us and an insistence that He will not share His position, praise, or glory with another (Psalm 83:18).
“I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)
God desires an exclusive love relationship with His people; He does not want to share our love and attention with idols and other false gods (Exodus 20:3).
That is why Deuteronomy 6:5 is the most important prayer and declaration in Judaism:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Yeshua confirmed this when He was asked what the greatest commandment is.
“He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)
With all the distractions of this world pulling at us from every side, we may need to examine our hearts from time to time to see if our love has grown cold or if there is anything (or anyone) who has drawn the focus of our devotion away from the living God who is also known as El Kanna – The Jealous God.