Apologetics, Archaeology, Bible, Main
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A study of names confirms Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah and the ruins of Jerusalem after it was sacked by Babylon by Horace Vernet (1789-1863)

A study of names has confirmed the historicity of the Book of Jeremiah. The Book of Jeremiah was written 2,600 years ago between 628 BC to 586 BC (the year, Babylon sacked Jerusalem).

Through a series of prophecies, Jeremiah repeatedly warned Judah that God was sending Babylon to judge the nation and haul the Jews into captivity. He also prophesied that the Jews would be restored to the promised land in 70 years and Babylon destroyed (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Skeptics typically dispute the book, because basically they don’t believe in prophecy and therefore conclude Jeremiah must have been written well after the incidents recorded in the Biblical book.

However, according to an article in Biblical Archaeological Review, Hebrew University’s Mitka Golub says a study of names cited in the Book of Jeremiah proves it was written at the time the incidents took place.

Like today, Golub says that names are a reflection of their time. There were popular styles of Hebrew names that were in vogue at certain times and not as much in other periods.

For example, the Jewish people like to include Yahweh in a name and depending on the period, certain abbreviations (yhw, yh or yw) tended to be more popular. The placement of the divine element was also distinctive. Sometimes it was popular to have it added at the beginning of the name and in another period more popular at the end.

In her study, Golub compared the 92 names found in the Book of Jeremiah with those names uncovered through archaeological discoveries recorded and dated in onomaticon.net database.

Through this study, Golub discovered that the ‘ywh’ abbreviation, that was the most popular in the Book of Jeremiah, was also the most popular usage from the archaeological discoveries for that period thus confirming the dating of Jeremiah.

However, names are not only important for archaeological research, but they were important to God as well.

God changed people’s names

There were several instances recorded in the Bible where God changed people’s names, to align with their new identity::

  • Abram “high father” to Abraham “father of a multitude”: (Genesis 17:3 – 6)
  • Sarai “my princess” to Sarah “mother of nations”: (Genesis 17:15-16)
  • Jacob “supplanter” to Israel “power with God”: (Genesis 32: 26-30)
  • Solomon was also referred to as Jedidiah “beloved of the Lord”: (1 Samuel 12:24-25)
  • The Apostle Peter’s name was changed from Simon to Peter “the rock” (Matthew 16:16-18).

God named people

At other times, God took an active role in determining people’s names. In these instance, Jehovah was often trying to send a message to other people:

God will give you a new name

And it appears that God will also have new name for everyone who hold true to their faith:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NIV)


READ: Personal names and Biblical historicity

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