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Thus spoke Heebiltadech

When my children were born, my wife and I were keen to give them biblical names, and Hannah and Benjamin seemed to fit just right. We could have gone considerably worse.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet is told by God to name his son Mahershalalhashbaz, which just sort of trips off the tongue nicely. Or not.

And then the Bible also mentions Zaphnathpaaneah and Tilgathpilneser and, of course, good old Chushanrishathaim. Imagine if the above four were the Gospel writers – it’s so much easier now just saying Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

When studying for ministry, I recall a much older Salvation Army officer saying, “Just say it confidently; no one will ever know.” And so I boldly say, “Today’s reading is from Hab-a-kkuk, not Hab-a-kook or Ha-backick or Have-a-cake.

Is my pronunciation right? No idea. But I say it boldly and move on and no one blinks.

I’m also delighted that we worship ‘God’, not Kedorlaomer (Genesis 14:1) and that his son was named ‘Jesus’, not Mardukbaladan (Isaiah 39:1), and I say that with respect to all the Mardukbalandans who may be reading this.

Mind you, would you rather have an odd name with a nice meaning (for example, Habakkuk means ‘embrace’) or a nice name with a not-so-nice meaning? Cameron means ‘crooked nose’. Claudia means ‘crippled’. Kennedy means ‘odd-shaped head’. Calvin means ‘bald’. Portia means ‘pig’. Courtney means ‘small nose’.

I once worked in a program where some of our clients had personality disorders or intellectual disabilities or were constantly drug affected. One young man didn’t like his name and wanted to change it. His first name was Thomas, and his surname was something like Katziioanou – and he was tired of spelling it out to people.

He came in one day and said he’d finally done it; he’d legally changed his name. I asked what he’d changed it to, and he smiled and said: “Thomas Thomas”.

I’m guessing I looked a bit stunned, so he said: “It’s easy to remember. It’s easy to do my signature. It’s easy for everyone to spell. It’s perfect!”

I said, “So do you want people to just call you Tom Tom for short?’ He looked confused, “Oh, I didn’t think of that,” he said. Someone really should have gone with him to get his name changed.

The Bible suggests that in eternity we’ll be given a new name (Revelation 2:17) known only to God. Which will make it really hard for anyone who wants to phone or text me. I hope it’s a nice name and not something like Mahershalalhashbaz or, even worse, a series of squeaks, clicks and ee-aw sounds that only God can pronounce.

Do you know what your name means? I hope you’ve got a name that means ‘beautiful’ or ‘brave’ or ‘wise one’ or ‘she who knows how to unpick knots’ or something else wonderful.

God just calls me ‘friend’ or ‘my child’, and I’m pretty happy with that.

– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos


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