Understanding Biblical Names

word studies help us understand biblical names

Word studies are the best way to understand Biblical names… or any part of the Bible! Because of this, every name we share on Rather Than Great Riches will include a word study to explain it’s meaning. While we won’t post every detail of every name, we will post the information that is relevant for you consider a name.

Here are the four elements we will be sharing to help you understand each name:

Original Language: 

The names we share are always transliterated using the English alphabet. For example, Lev is the English transliteration of the ancient Hebrew word לב. Our conversation will be around the english transliteration “Lev”, but we will always share what ancient language the name comes from and then the original word in that language! Most of the time the names we share come from Hebrew or Greek, since those are the main languages of the Bible. However, there are also Persian, Latin and even Egyptian names in the Bible (like Esther, Rufus, and Memphis!)

Range of Meanings: 

This section will explain the possible meanings of a name in its original language. This is often called the “semantic domain” of a word. Many ancient words have a range of possible meanings, which help it to convey different thoughts depending on the context in which they are used. As an example, the English noun “key” has several possible meanings. It is a small piece of metal we use to open a door and it is also a group of musical notes we can sing. Ancient languages work similarly, using words for a range of meaning, especially in languages that have less words available to use. Biblical Hebrew has somewhere around 8000 words, while our modern English has about 600,000!


Occasionally, we will find that a single word contributes to a larger, overarching idea. One good example of this is how the general concept of “light” may be described more specifically as “shine,” “dawn,” or “glow.” It’s interesting to consider the meaning of specific words by looking at the concept they sit alongside as it may give more clarity to the meaning.

References or Context:

Finally, this area is where we’ll share list of relevant scripture passages or historical context. It will also provide examples of how the name or word has been used. Often times, this area will hold more meaning than the actual meaning of a word. As an example, the name “Olivet” simply means “olive tree”, but knowing the importances the location Mt. Olivet had in Jesus’ life helps the name takes on a much deeper biblical significance!

Where’s the Pronunciation?!

When we had written drafts for each name, pronunciation was a category we were obviously going to include. However, once we got a little deeper in, we had to think outside of what is textbook for academics and instead think about how these words were going to translate into daily life as names. We decided that learning the value of these cross-cultural words helps us to better understand the Bible we read today… even if they are pronounced wrong. That led us also realize that while pronunciation will be important for some, it will not be important for all. That is why you won’t be seeing pronunciation on Rather Than Great Riches…. for now. (There are many resources online for pronunciation that you can search for if you are curious!)



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