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Notes on Revelation

...a new name...

Revelation 2:17
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches...and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

1. The changing of someone's name in the Bible was sometimes as a symbol of their new standing.

Genesis 17:4,5,15
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee...And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

Genesis 32:28
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

2. Names were also changed after conquest:

Daniel 1:1-3,6,7
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand...And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel...Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego.

3. W. M. Ramsay in "The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia" (see Letters) states that some cities were renamed in honor of a dignitary or after some catstrophe had befallen it.

4. We have many instances of people changing their names and adopting foreign names when immigrating.

5. Prayer for the sick: "changing the name."

Rosh HaShanah 16b
"R. Isaac further said: Four things cancel the doom of a man, namely, charity, supplication, change of name and change of conduct."

When someone is desperately sick and his life is in danger or he has suffered some other misfortune, Jews invoke this prayer in hopes that it will change the outcome of the crisis, somehow confusing the Angel of Death. The name is usually changed (nowadays a name is added instead of completely changing the name) to one that speaks of long life or recovery such as: Raphael (may God heal), Hezekiah (may God give strength), etc.

The prayer is called "Mi she-Berakh" and the Ashkenazi formula contains the following passage: "Just as his [her] name has been changed, so may the evil decree passed on him [her] be changed from justice to mercy, from death to life, from illness to a complete cure." From then on, this new name is used for all religious purposes, e.g.: "to be called up to the Torah, in a bill of divorce, on the tombstone, etc."

Encyclopaedia Judaica
The Soncino Talmud
The Complete Artscroll Siddur
IVP Bible Background Commentary, OT & NT


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