God's Love Expressed In Names

  • The step-by-step account of our spiritual growth is allegorically noted in Jacob’s life story. Here we will delve into the meanings of the family member’s names to see a grand overview of that account. (Afterwards you will want to read the allegory’s explanation.)
  • The names of Ishmael’s sons also give a step-by-step acdount –it’s the steps of our salvation from that conviction-introspection to the Spirit breathing life into us.

The Patriarchs

There’s a passage in Galatians chapter four where Paul said that Hagar and Sarah should be considered allegorically. It ties the Old Covenant to Hagar the slave woman –saying that relating to God through its Law makes us slaves like her. Ishmael was her fruit. He’s tied to trying to please God through legalistic obedience. We’re told to be like Abraham, the man of faith who cast out both her and her son. We’re to rid ourselves of the Law and all works of obedience to it.

The passage contrasts that relationship with God using Sarah. She is tied to the New Covenant –the promise that He has fully reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son. Isaac was her fruit –his life was the result of trusting God. The only fruit that we can offer –that’s pleasing to God– is the result of our trusting Him too.

By logically unraveling more of the facts about the Hebrew Patriarchs and their families we can find what God thinks of us. There’s a longer, more detailed explanation of the allegory but let’s start by just examining the meanings of their names.


Means: Great father

Represents: God the Father


Means: She was an Egyptian –there is no Hebrew meaning

Represents: That relationship is foreign to God –no good can come from it


Means: Prevail, have the power of a princess

Represents: The relationship to God through faith is supreme


Means: God heard

Represents: God hears our cry to Him; he represents our human body


Means: He laughs

Represents: It reflects the joy that Jesus has as we join Him in His resurrection after His payment on the cross; He represents God in a human body –Jesus


Means: Fettered by beauty

Represents: Jesus’ view of us and His bond of love

Esau (later called Edom)

Means: “To handle” (Edom Means: “Red-faced”)

Represents: A self-sufficient man of the world (He’s easily angered); He represents our human spirit

Jacob (later called Israel)

Means: “Circumvent or restrain” (Israel comes from Sarah and El –meaning prevail with God)

Represents: The nature of the Spirit’s attempts to take us off our natural path to destruction (reining with Jesus); he represents the Holy Spirit

If you would like to see how these implications were derived please read the detailed explanation. It lists so much more background. This shortened version is more for an overview.


The Patriarchs represent the Trinity. Abraham is of course God the Father. Isaac is God, the Son –Jesus (Yeshua or Joshua is His Hebrew name). Jacob is the Holy Spirit.

Relating to our Father (Abraham) through slavery to the Law (Hagar) is detestable –that was noted above. Ishmael represents our human flesh (that part of us without the Holy Spirit –Jesus said “apart from Me you can do nothing”). Our flesh is always at war with the Spirit –it’s trying to be its own god.

Relating to the Father through faith is accomplished by trusting that Him to keep His promise –that Jesus’ work here on earth was sufficient. There’s no improving our flesh to make Him happy –it will always be corrupt– but He has resolved all of our differences; He’ reconciled us; He’s washed away our filth. Life now is a matter of living by trusting Him to grow us into the perfect bride of Christ. That’s the Holy Spirit’s task and Jacob’s sons describe the growth steps involved.

But we need to keep in mind how those steps come about –the relationships that we have with God. There are four and they change as we get to know and trust Him more. They’re represented by the four women that Jacob acquired from Laban.


Means: White brick

Represents: Our human heart –it’s what the Holy Spirit deals with to develop us into the perfect bride (it’s who Jacob asked to claim Rachel in marriage)


Means: To journey as a ewe

Represents: The contentment of following our Shepherd


Means: Tiring, wearying, disgusting

Represents: We’re not pleasing to God in our natural condition

Bilhah (Rachel’s servant)

Means: Timid, troubled or terrified

Represents: We’re naturally afraid of God

Zilpah (Leah’s servant)

Means: Trickle of fragrant perfume

Represents: It’s offering ourselves to God for whatever His purpose might be

Growth Steps

Jacob was only interested in one of them –Rachel. The rest were required incidentals. Each one gave birth to sons –and each son shows a bit of progress in our totally trusting God. His goal for us is depicted by Joseph (“Abundance”) borne by Rachel (who followed Him unconditionally as a ewe). But He starts with Reuben (who is “born-again”) from Leah (the “tiring, wearying, disgusting” one). Now here’s the list of Jacob’s sons (and mothers) –they are our growth steps.

Reuben (from Leah)

Means: To see one born

Represents: It’s being born-again –born of the Spirit and it has nothing to do with our doing anything good

Simeon (from Leah)

Means: To hear and consider

Represents: Judgmentally trying to be moral, ethical, “do the right thing” is not what God wants

Levi (from Leah)

Means: To unite and abide with

Represents: It’s trying to legalistically obey God’s commandments to gain His acceptance –but not trusting in His promise

Dan (from Bilhah)

Means: Follow a straight path, judge

Represents: Being fearful of God’s judgment will eventually take us to His mercy and grace

Judah (from Leah)

Means: Celebrate, praise, thanksgiving

Represents: It’s a sincere understanding of the need for all that Jesus is

Naphtali (from Bilhah)

Means: Wrestle or moral struggle

Represents: We struggle to understand the relationship of obedience to the Law and freedom through grace

Gad (from Zilpah)

Means: Invade or overcome

Represents: We think that we are battling to overcome religions, governments, bad people

Asher (from Zilpah)

Means: Go forth blessed

Represents: It’s when we tell our brothers and sisters that Jesus has done everything necessary to make us holy and pleasing to God

Issachar (from Leah)

Means: Brought forth wages

Represents: We help young believers to grow

Zebulun (from Leah)

Means: To dwell with

Represents: We live near the lost in order to help save them

Joseph (from Rachel)

Means: Abundance

Represents: It’s letting Jesus live out His life through our beings with absolutely no selfish desires of our own

Benjamin (from Rachel)

Means: Strong right arm

Represents: It’s when our work on earth is done and we’re ready to join Jesus in the battle of Armageddon

Salvation Steps

But what about the process that the Holy Spirit goes through to bring us to Him in the first place? Those steps are described by the sons of Ishmael. He represents our human body –that which must endure the God-ordained circumstances of this life in order to be saved and then matured.


Means: Cause to behold, consider, look down, regard, have respect, see

Represents: That we see our condition –that we’re dead, separated from God


Means: Be blackish, be make darken, heavily, cause to mourn

Represents: That we’re realizing the repercussions of that condition


Means: Grieve” and “mighty strength

Represents: Our crying out to God


Means: Smell, spice, sweet odor

Represents: Offering ourselves to God


Means: To hear, listen attentively, call gather together, carefully, certainly, consent, consider

Represents: Hearing and listening to the Holy Spirit


Means: Cease, be cut down off, destroy, be brought to silence, be undone, utterly

Represents: Understanding that all we have to offer is our emptiness


Means: Burden, carry away, prophecy, they set, song, tribute, accept, advance, arise, able to, armor, suffer to bearer, up, bring forth

Represents: Desire to serve Him


Means: Be fierce, sharpen

Represents: Growing in singleness of knowing Jesus


(no Hebrew meaning); Represents: Seeing that we have no identity apart from God


Means: A row; hence, a wall

Represents: The security that He provides


Means: To breathe; passively, to be breathed upon, refreshed

Represents: Receiving the Holy Spirit


Means: Go, flee before, disappoint, meet, prevent

Represents: Having eternal life and avoiding eternal death

The Bible is Jesus’ autobiography so that we can know Him and trust Him to deeply care about us. He wants us to trust Him for every moment of this life.