Bible Names Not to Give Your Baby Girl
Names with Bad Associations
Yes, they're sexy, they're exotic, and they come from the Bible. But before you give your daughter one of these names, take a closer look at the way these women's stories went.
In some ways, I really like the name Eve. It's beautiful, simple, womanly, and instantly recognizable.
Our source for Eve and her story is the book of Genesis, chapters 2 through 5. Obviously, we are given only part of the story. Eve's biggest claim to fame has been that she ate the fruit and plunged the world into darkness. But it has also been pointed out (including by Christian teachers) that she did not do this all by herself. Her husband Adam "was with her" (Genesis 3:6) and apparently did nothing to stop the temptation process. Nor was her choice different from what any one of us would probably have done. And give Eve her due, after that horrible day in the Garden, she and Adam went on to found civilization. She became the mother of us all.
So the Fall is not the main reason to avoid the name Eve for your daughter. The main reason is that, when people hear the name, they will immediately picture a woman (possibly your daughter) naked.
Dinah (DEE-nah), the only daughter of Jacob that we are told about, was abducted (possibly raped, possibly seduced) by a prince of the one of the settlements near where her family were staying. The prince offered to marry her in good faith and offered a large bride price. Her brothers pretended to agree, but tricked the prince and ended up slaughtering him and all the males in his city. You can read all the gory details in Genesis chapter 34. They retrieve Dinah, and then she drops out of the story.
Dinah's story is retold in the rich novel The Red Tent, which incorporates a lot of research on the ancient near east and which necessarily makes a lot of extrapolations, some of them in harmony with Genesis, some clearly contradicting it.
While Dinah is possibly an admirable character, her fate as described in Genesis is a confusing, disturbing, and ambivalent one. Certainly she was cursed with proud and violent brothers (as was her brother Joseph). The other problem with this name is that it will almost certainly be pronounced DIE-nah, and will remind people of the song "Dinah, won't you blow your horn."
There are two uses of the name Rahab in the Bible. One is a poetic name for the country of Egypt. In this usage, Rahab often shows up in the prophetic books of the Bible, where it is usually being denounced as either an enemy of Israel, or a as powerful patron state to which the Israelites might be tempted to look (in vain) for protection.
The other Rahab is more interesting. She was an actual women, and her story is found in Joshua chapter 2. In this chapter, Joshua sends two spies to check out the city of Jericho, which is fortified with a megalithic wall. "They went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there."
Rahab turns out to be quite a savvy woman. She has heard about the Israelites' progress through the land and realizes that, due to their God, they will eventually defeat Jericho. She hides the spies, covers for them with the city officials, gives them specific directions about how to get back across the river without being caught, and lowers them over the city wall by a rope in the night. (Has Rahab done spying before? Perhaps.) She also extracts a solemn promise from them that neither she nor anyone in her family will be killed when the city is taken, as long as they remain in her house.
Apparently, Rahab later married an Israelite, because she later shows up in the family line of Christ (Matthew 1:5). So her story is one of a remarkable turnaround. But I still don't recommend this name for your daughter, because anyone familiar with the story will know her as "Rahab the prostitute."
Feminist icon Jael (JAY-el) appears in Judges chapter 4, where she kills the Canaanite general Sisera after the prophetess Deborah prophesies that "the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman."
Jael is actually a pretty amazing woman. She is clearly perceptive, brave, and resourceful. But there are two reasons not to give her name to your daughter. First, her name will inevitably get pronounced as "jail." Secondly, Jael killed the evil general by waiting until he was asleep ... and then driving a tent peg through his head. Not an image that anyone wants in their head for longer than it takes to read it.
No, I am not going to tell you that Delilah (whose story is found in Judges chapter 16) was a wicked, deceptive seductress. That may have been true ... hard to tell from the story.
Super-strong Israelite hero Samson "falls in love" with Delilah. We are not told who initiated the relationship, but we do know that Samson had proven himself to have no self-control when it comes to women. Regardless, once Delilah is in the relationship, she finds that "the rulers of the Philistines" are offering her money beyond her wildest dreams if she will find out the secret of Samson's strength. She agrees to sell him out. It takes her four tries, and then the overconfident Samson tells her the secret of his strength. She perforce shaves his head, he is captured and blinded, and Delilah drops out of the story.
It is possible that the Philistine rulers also threatened Delilah if she didn't cooperate with them. Just two chapters before, the Philistines has threatened Samson's then-wife, "Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father's household to death." Although she did find out the answer to the riddle, later when things went bad between her and Samson, they murdered her and her father anyway. Samson was a dangerous man to be around, and it was Delilah's misfortune to have gotten involved with him.
The name Jezebel, similar to the name Judas, has come to connote betrayal. But a better connotation would be the abuse of power.
Jezebel (1 Kings chapter 16 and following) was a Sidonian princess who married Ahab king of Israel. She was not willing to leave her pagan background to worship the God of Israel, instead importing her fertility gods (Asherah and Baal), whose worship involved temple prostitution. You might think this would make Jezebel a good name for a pagan/feminist folk hero, but read on.
As an ancient near East pagan, Jezebel had a much more authoritarian view of the rights of kings than did her husband. This is illustrated in the incident of Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21).
Ahab wants the vineyard of a man named Naboth. He offers buy it, but Naboth refuses to sell it to him. Ahab is not happy, but he doesn't think there is anything he can do. Although not a particularly good man, he was raised in Israel, and hence is familiar with such concepts as the rule of law, the king being answerable to the law and to God, the importance of each Israelite family keeping their ancestral land, and the importance of not lying under oath.
But Jezebel has no such scruples. When she finds out that Ahab is sulking over the vineyard, she says, "Is this how you act as king of Israel? Cheer up. I'll get you the vineyard of Naboth." Then, like a true ancient near eastern monarch, she has Naboth framed for blasphemy and sedition, and killed by stoning. Ahab, though not willing to take such a step himself, is happy to collect Naboth's vineyard. But the Lord, whose name is Justice, is not impressed with Jezebel's tactics, and he holds Ahab responsible: "Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?"
You are unlikely to be tempted to give your daughter this name, as it is an odd-sounding name for modern times, but here is Bath-Sheba's back story, taken from 2 Samuel 11.
Bath-Sheba was married to a man named Uriah the Hittite, apparently a man of great integrity, who was serving in king David's army. In David's most famous fall from grace, he happened to see Bath-Sheba bathing, was struck by her beauty, and used his power as king to make her sleep with him.
When Bath-Sheba became pregnant, the story began to spin into tragedy. David engaged in frantic efforts to cover up the affair, but was finally forced to have Uriah assassinated, after which he married Bath-Sheba. The truth came out anyway, and David's sin resulted in a curse: "Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house."
Bath-Sheba later became the mother of king Solomon, but she is still associated in most people's minds with the tragic death of Uriah.
This is another name that is unlikely to come up on your list. It does not sound pretty or feminine to modern ears.
In one of the most searing, yet least known books of the Bible, the prophet Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer. He does this on instructions from God. God wants to use Hosea's marriage to a nymphomaniac to illustrate how His own relationship has been with the nation of Israel.
Weirdly, after Gomer marries Hosea she does not leave her former lifestyle. Perhaps she doesn't know any other way; perhaps she is addicted to a substance or to prostitution itself. In any case, Hosea has to go and buy her back from a slave market and bring her back to be his wife again.
Most of the book of Hosea consists of God speaking in poetry. He says, essentially, "This is exactly what I have gone through with you people. You keep leaving me again and again and again." In the Bible, worshiping false gods is often compared to cheating on one's spouse. God is our true husband, who loves us and will give us everything, but somehow we are never satisfied with Him. In this sense, we are all Gomer ... but it is still not the greatest name to give your daughter.
Are any of these names better than they appear?
Do you happen to have one of these names? What has been your experience with it? Leave a comment and make your case for the name..
Questions & Answers
whats a good Bible name that I can give my baby?
It depends a lot on your taste, your last name, and your family's preferences.
Bible names for girls that I would consider "good" include:
Sarah, Rachael or Rachel, Leah, Rebecca or Rebekah, Deborah, Hannah, Naomi, Ruth, Tirzah, Mary, Mara, Joanna, Rhoda, Lois, Eunice, Tabitha.
There are many others.