On Jewish/Hebrew names

Traditional Explanation

The man said to Jacob: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). Therefore, it is widely believed that the name “Israel” comes from the Hebrew word sharit (שרית), which in biblical Hebrew means “to struggle”, “to exercise influence”, “to prevail”. There is another way to interpret this name, one which helps us comprehend the depth of the transformation at Penuel.

What happened to Jacob?

The name Israel can be read as Yashar- El (ישר-אל). The Hebrew word Yashar (יָשָׁר) means straight, honest, honorable, law-abiding; in biblical usage, it also means “righteous, God-fearing person”. The root akov (עָקֹב֙), on the other hand, (the root of the name Yakov) might mean also “crooked”, as in this verse: the crooked (הֶֽעָקֹב֙) shall be made straight (Is 40:4). Then we understand the meaning of this change: Israel is the one whom God makes straight as opposed to “being crooked and uneven”. 

Discover the secrets of the Scripture

Names in the ancient Jewish world carried a very important weight. A name spoke of a person’s character, his deeds and his identity. For a person to be given a new name, meant a change in their identity. Reading the Bible in translation we miss the meaning of the names; undoubtedly, this is one of biggest losses we experience because of translation.

My notes:

Native American names are very similar in nature and translation as Hebrew names are. They mean something fairly specific and some names must be feasted at different times of the year, as a means of honoring them. For example, I have several names which mean something specific as to me nature as a Neshnabe man.

Neaseno: describes a warm wind from the South, implying that the Owner of said name should seek to warm or thaw things among the people, as to thaw a personality, thaw a given situation, warm up cold dead hearts to the situations facing us in this day and age, especially as it relates to recapturing our language and cultural knowledge. In other words, live up to the name; do what a warm southerly wind would do, thaw things out.

Biwagdebe: describes an iron head, having the dispostion of being thoroughly committed to the cultural ways and language of your people as to be unchangeable, unable to be persuaded otherwise, steadfast, solidly entrenched in one’s own ways.

I have four names but the description I just gave of two of them should get my idea across that names in Neshnabe culture mean something specific.

Iw enamoyan

Neaseno ndesh ne kas

Published by neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

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