Now the time came for Elizabeth’s child to be born, and she gave birth to a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard what great favor the Lord had shown her, they were as delighted as she was. Then on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother spoke up and said, “No!” he is to be called John.”
“But,” they said, “there is nobody in your family who has that name.” They inquired of his father by signs what he would like him to be called. Zechariah asked for a writing-tablet and to the astonishment of all wrote down, “His name is John.” Immediately his lips and tongue were freed and he began to speak, praising God.
All the neighbors were struck with awe, and everywhere in the uplands of Judaea the whole story became common talk. All who heard it were deeply impressed and said, “What will this child become?” For indeed the hand of the Lord was upon him.
Names: Why did the relatives want to name John after his father? *
Thoughts: on parenting — Donna Ross
Luke’s first chapter has told us a story of a miraculous conception and a momentous birth.
This aging couple has never been able to have children. So when an angel tells Zechariah that his wife will conceive and bear a child, he is understandably skeptical. Yet to their great joy Elizabeth does conceive, and when the baby is born, they name him “John” — meaning “Yahweh’s gift.”
Every child, of course, is a special gift from God. But perhaps only those who spend years trying to conceive can appreciate the joy of parents like Elizabeth and Zechariah.
Rob and I spent some years trying to conceive before we gratefully turned to an adoption agency. As our babies were placed in our arms, we gave them names that connected them to a member of their new family — a father, an uncle, an adopted grandmother.
We didn’t know at the time that it was Biblical custom to name a child after a close relative; but it’s a wise custom to connect every child to the family that loves them and gives them a home.
Who gave you your name? Who does your name connect you to?
It was Jewish custom to name a boy after his father, grandfather, or other close relative; the name was always given to the baby on the eighth day, the day of his circumcision. John is a shorter form of the name Jehohanan, which means Yahweh’s gift, or God is gracious. John was the name the angel Gabriel had given to Zechariah, and John also described his parents’ gratitude for God’s gift.