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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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Shêm (שֵׁם, Strong's #8034), “name; reputation; memory; renown.” Cognates of this word appear in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, and Arabic. This word appears about 864 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew. It is not always true that an individual’s “name” reveals his essence. Names using foreign loan words and ancient words were probably often not understood. Of course, names such as “dog” (Caleb) and “bee” (Deborah) were not indicative of the persons who bore them. Perhaps some names indicated a single decisive characteristic of their bearer. In other cases, a “name” recalls an event or mood which the parent(s) experienced at or shortly before the child’s birth and/or naming. Other names make a statement about an individual. This sense of a name as an identification appears in Gen. 2:19 (an early occurrence of this word): “… And whatsoever Adam called every living creaturethat was the name thereof.” On the other handthe names by which God revealed Himself (’Adonay, ‘El, ‘Elohim) do reflect something of His person and work.

Shêm can be a synonym for “reputation” or “fame”: “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). To “give a name for one” is to make him famous: “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land …” (2 Sam. 7:23). If a name goes forth for one, his “reputation” of fame is made known: “And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty …” (Ezek. 16:14). Fame may include power: “And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them, and had the name among three” (2 Sam. 23:18). This sense, “men of reputation,” appears in Gen. 6:4: “… mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

This word is sometimes a synonym for “memory” or “reputation” (that which remains): “… And so they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth” (2 Sam. 14:7). In this respect “name” may include property, or an inheritance: “Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (Num. 27:4).

Shêm can connote “renown” and “continuance” (in those remaining after one): “And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (Num. 16:2). This significance is in the phrase “to raise up his name after him”: “What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance” (cf. Deut. 9:14; 25:6; Ruth 4:5).

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Name'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​n/name.html. 1940.
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