What’s in a Name?

Abi and Dog

“We can’t name our baby after a dog!” Phil replied in an exasperated voice.

“But I named our first dog “Abigail” because it was my favorite name,” I explained.

Those of you who know our family know that our third daughter and fourth child has the beautiful name – Abigail.

By the time we had our third daughter, Phil’s resistance to the name had faded along with the memory of that first dog. She was a Bassett Hound that wandered into our lives, and then wandered out after we paid vet bills for shots and surgery to have her spayed.

I’ve never thought of our daughter being named after a dog.

The name ‘Abigail’ has a Hebrew origin and means ‘source of joy’. Our Abigail has certainly been a source of joy for our family and many others who know her. I recently read that Abigail and Hannah, (our first daughter’s name) have been among the most popular English female names for the past several years. The WEB sites on which I looked this information up varied slightly – but Abigail and Hannah were in the top 20 on all three lists.

When we chose those names, we thought we were being unique – little did we know.

Yet once you name a child something – the name begins to fit them – or does the child begin to fit the name?

God puts significant importance in names. He sometimes changed an individual’s name because of an important change in their life.

Abram became Abraham
Sarai became Sarah
Jacob became Israel
Saul became Paul

Jacob’s name change was the result of a struggle he had with God.

Genesis 32:24-29

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

The part that impressed me in this passage was verse 28 – “you have struggled with God and with humans and have OVERCOME”. (emphasis mine)

God changed Jacob’s name to a name that meant “he struggles with God”.

I am encouraged by this passage because Jacob struggled and didn’t stop until he received a blessing. Jacob was even injured physically and limped afterwards because of this struggle – so much for us thinking that walking with God is a stroll through the park!

Many of us are struggling right now.

We may feel like we are in the midst of a wrestling match with one of our children, our spouse, our in-laws, a grandchild, or even God.

Hang in there! Don’t give up until you sense God’s blessing!

We will sense God’s blessing in our lives – not when we get what we want – but when we KNOW and trust that God is faithful to take on our struggle for us. He gave us His only son Jesus –

Philippians 2:8-11 (NLT)

8 He humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


5 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. msh says:

    Excellent words.

    I did have to chuckle at the dog story though. My husband’s family always tells the story of how my father-in-law wanted to name their youngest son Kingsley. My mother-in-law reacted quite strongly against the name saying it sounded like a name for a dog. He countered with Andrew William, which became my brother-in-law’s name. After he was born and named and well settled into being called Andy my mil asked her husband how he came up with the name Andrew William. He smiled and said it was the name of the horse next door…. Andy Bill. !! It remains a favorite family story because it was true!


  2. Tim says:

    I knew the first Abigail with the long ears and droopy eyes. I knew the sadness in your house when she was gone. I’m sure I was one of the people who said, “You named her after a dog!?!?”, when your Abigail came along, but, she took over that name, made it her own and became a beautiful daughter, mother and wife. Later, we named our first son, Benjamin. We named him after your son, of course, who made such an impact on our early married life. (see the Hannah, Benjamin and the green been story)

    There is much in a name AND in a good story. Abigail, if you are reading this, I guess I can confess that whenever I see your smiling face on Facebook . . . I always have and always will think of the first Abigail too. 🙂


  3. Tim, you and Angie have been such a special part of our lives! I have to be careful about what I write – you keep me honest!
    We are blessed to have you as friends.


  4. gloria says:

    You have a gift of telling stories & teaching. Thank you! I agree that there is great meaning in one’s name & see that in my children, too. I am encouraged by your words that remind me – “God takes on our struggles for us”. We have much to be thankful for in knowing that!


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