Saturday, April 11, 2009

The passing of a culture

Today I read the end of 2 Kings (23-25) and the first three chapters of 1 Chronicles (1-3).

I "know" just enough Hebrew to enable me to use the standard tools . . .
Look up a verse in the Blue Letter Bible, then click on the "C"
and you'll see all kinds of lexical aids, including hotlinks to Strong's Concordance . . . and more:
. . . and also to be curious about the meanings of such things as some of the names we run across.

That's why I took the time to check Eliakim and Jehoiakim in 2 Kings 23:34 where we read that "Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim." What do those names mean?

I knew Eli-akim or El-yakim had to be "My God akim" [Eli-akim] (whatever akim might mean) or "God yakim" [El-yakim] (again, whatever yakim might mean; El means "God").

And Jeho-i-akim (or, more likely, Jeho-yakim) had to be something about "Yahweh (or Jehovah) ________akim or yakim." But what does akim or yakim mean?

I looked up the names.

Eliakim--pronounced El-yah-KEEM; ah! Correct pronunciation leads to correct split: El-yakim--means "God raises" or "God sets up." And, as one might then expect, Jehoiakim--pronounced Yeh-ho-yah-KEEM--means "Jehovah (or Yahweh) raises up."

Once I recognized that, however, it raised a question in my mind: Why would Pharaoh Neco want to change Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim? --Could it be an attempt at ironic mockery: "Jehovah set you up as king! (Ha-ha-ha-ha!) No, I, Pharaoh Neco, established you as king over against your vaunted 'Jehovah.' --And don't you forget it!"? (That was the best I could come up with.)


You can imagine, after doing this kind of study every now and then, one begins to pay attention to the names and the name forms. If you haven't happened to pay attention, let me point out how common the name forms are that begin with El- or Yeh- or Jeh- and/or that end in -iah. --All related to "God" or "YHWH"/"Jehovah."

So I finished 2 Kings and got over to 1 Chronicles where I got the genealogies going back to Adam and Eve, and, suddenly, it was very obvious I was/we are dealing with a very different culture. None of the names included any of those "El" or "YHWH"/Jehovah pre- or postfixes. Yahweh/Jehovah isn't named.

It got me thinking about how the American culture is shifting. You can see it in "our" names.

It wasn't that long ago, the vast majority of names in the United States were "Christian" or "biblical" . . . or exhibited an affinity for or aspirations toward some kind of biblical relations.

But today?

The biblical books of Kings, of course, focus on the names of the civil leaders in Israel and Judah. I got thinking about the head of government in the United States today. Whether or not he identifies himself as Christian, it struck me that Barack Obama is the first U.S. president whose name [Barack = "Blessed" in Arabic] comes from a cultural stream whose names do not reflect Christian or Biblical roots.

Is that, itself, also a sign of a cultural shift?

Are future American presidents/rulers going to feature Islamic/Qur'anic rather than Christian/biblical roots?

Speaking for myself, may I say that, if I had to choose, I would prefer a Christian over a Q'uranic law system!
NOTE: Despite the Arabic roots for his name, the Luo people, from whom Mr. Obama comes, are, today, 97% Protestant Christian by affinity.

Just before I posted, I happened to note this interesting commentary by Eric Schansberg on a similar (but differently-focused) front.
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