It seems every culture has a unique way of giving names to their children. Traditionally in the United States a woman legally changes her maiden name to her husband’s family name. Children also take the family name of their father. The given name is considered the first name and the family name (aka surname) is the last name. Most people following this practice also have a middle name.

Bible names, such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Rebecca, Sarah or Abigail are popular in America. Family names of the first European immigrants were often based on their occupation, for example “baker” or “smith”.  Another common source of names has been from the home country of immigrants and has richly diversified the mix of names found in America. Some names have historical meaning attached to them but are not often thought about in Western culture.

In the Bible, names and their meanings were very important.

Bible Reading

Exodus 1-3:15
In Exodus chapter 3, the Bible tells us God’s name.
God appeared to Moses on a mountain. God told Moses to go to Egypt to lead the Jewish people from slavery to freedom from their bondage. Moses was afraid to do this.  He asked God, “Whom shall I say sent me?” God answered, “I AM.”

“I AM” is very significant. God was saying He is always present – in the past, present and the future. God is with you in the now. God was telling Moses that He has existed since before time began. He has no beginning and no end and that He never changes.

John 8:58

In the Gospel of John (the New Testament), John records Jesus having a discussion with the Jewish religious leaders. They were discussing Abraham. He was the father of the Jewish faith, who lived 2,000 years before these events.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58).

Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be God by repeating God’s name.


  1. How are names given and used in your culture versus in America?
  2. Do you know what your name means?
  3. What do you understand about the meaning of the words “I AM”?
  4. When Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM”, why do you think the Jewish leaders understood immediately what Jesus was saying?

Word List

  • aka – abbreviation for “also known as”
  • smith – the most common family name in most of the English-speaking world. From an English surname meaning “metal worker, blacksmith”, derived from Old English smitan “to smite, to hit”
  • Jewish – descendants of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, the children of Israel
  • bondage – to be a servant by force
  • New Testament – the second part of the Holy Bible that records the life and teachings of Jesus, as well his early followers, regarding the Christian life
  • versus – compared to or by contrast; abbreviated vs.

For further reading: What does it mean when a person adds the words “in Jesus’ name” at the end of their prayer?  “What praying in Jesus’ name means”