Bible Review 11:4, August 1995

Naming is Creating

Biblical women hold the power

By Savina J. Teubal

In the biblical world, nothing exists unless it is named. The power of naming is linked to the power of creating: In one inseparable motion, God creates, and then immediately names, Day and Night, the Sky, the Earth and the Seas (Genesis 1:1–10).

In the same way, when children are born in the Bible, they are immediately given names. Births and naming are recorded consecutively in three generations of the patriarchs: Isaac (Genesis 21:2–3), Jacob (Genesis 25:24–26) and Joseph (Genesis 30:23–24). Naming, then, belongs to the same act of creation as giving birth; and the naming of a child has a gravity similar to God’s creation of the universe.

The act of naming is also significant because it places the name-giver in authority over the name-bearer. Rachel and Leah name their children, as well as the children of their handmaids (see Genesis 30); because of their power of creating-naming, these two matriarchs (and not their handmaids) are called the ancestors of Israel’s twelve tribes (see Ruth 4:11).

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