Saturday, September 5, 2015

Origins of names

Origins of Rahab the Harlot's name... and others.

People of my generation have the least weird names. My siblings’ names are Lynda, Larry, Susan, Dennis, Jill and Alan. In school, my friends’ names were Johnny, Tommy, Jimmy, David, and Skipper. Skipper was as weird a name as you’d run across. And, get this, he was a Skipper before “Gilligan’s Island” ever aired.

Today’s children are named after seasons, states, cities, planets, insects, rare flowers, vegetables, and computer parts. A bunch have made-up names. “Machienzel?”

The few normal-named kids have weird name spellings. Chari for Sherry. Dafydd for David and Jarvyn for Ronald. Anything to make life miserable for school teachers.

That being said, the worst names in the history of mankind were those that were conjured up during ancient times. “Rahab the Harlot” comes to mind. Some of you may know that Rahab received notoriety as a result of Joshua sending two guys to spy out the city of Jericho. For a reason that was not made clear in scripture, the two men went straight to the business establishment of Rahab the Harlot. The business was actually owned by her husband, Peleg the Pimp. (A joke!) I assume the spies were looking for Rahab the Shoe Doctor, but got the Jerichoian spelling of “Shoe Doctor” and “Harlot” mixed up.

There were many other Biblical personalities named after their trade. Let’s see, Simon the Tanner comes to mind. What did they call Simon before he worked in leather? Simon the Carrot Hater? Simon the Clod Thrower?

If you go farther back, you’ll find Ishmael. He was prophesied to become “a wild ass of a man.” Gen 16: 12 (RSV) I’ll bet he got into a lot of fights at school. --  “Hey, Ishmael the Wild Ass! Where’s your brother Jack?” Kids can be so cruel.

Occasionally, names would get a bit complicated. Who can forget Jonah in the Whale? People would come up to him and say, “Hey, look, it’s Jonah in the Whale! I’ll bet he got tired of correcting people. “No, I’m Jonah in the Big Fish. A whale can’t swallow a man, because it’s throat is too narrow, you jackass!” – “Wait a minute. You must mistake me for Ishmael’s brother.”

In Sunday school, we used to sing about Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man. What a horrible name. They could’ve called him “Little Man” or “Short Guy.” But, “Wee Little Man” is just piling on. By the way, Zacchaeus was the tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus coming down the street. The entire story is told in Luke 19, or you can just sing the song. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man. A wee little man was he. He climbed up in a…”Naw, go ahead and read the account.

Can you imagine wearing the name James the Lesser? There was no way you were meant to excel with a name like that. From what I read, he was named The Lesser so that during conversation, people wouldn’t mistake him for James the son of Zebedee, who was consider greater than the other James. That’s just cruel.

Eventually, someone invented last names. I believe the first guy using a last name was Phillip Hunter. He was a hunter by profession. (Duh!) But, his son, Josh, wasn’t a hunter. Hated hunting. Still, Phil told people to refer to his son as Josh Hunter. The new system caught on like Double Stuff Oreo’s.

Today, if you’re last name is “Smith”, somewhere down the line, one of your grandpas’ was a blacksmith. I understand that Kroger is a derivative of the German name for “host.” Apparently, back in the day, a host actually charged people for what they ate. My Grandmother Hayter’s maiden name was Picklesiemer. One of her grandpas used to catch and pickle siemers. The name “Kellogg” referred to a killer of hogs. At breakfast time, you need to just put that one out of your mind.

The name “Hayter” goes back to a time when names referred to your address. Remember Robin of Locksley? Well, the earliest of my line of grandpas lived in Scotland atop a high hill. He was Reginald of the High Hill. Or Reginald Hayter. Had he made barrel hoops while living on the high hill, my last name would be Hayterhooper. How cool is that?

Names are crazy things. Crazy things intended for identification, not characterization. While I feel a smidgen of pride in being a member of The Hayter Clan, I had nothing to do with the selection process. Didn’t even have a vote. I feel it was in God’s hands.

Faith tells me that it was the same with the story of Rahab the Harlot. I don’t mean to get all religious on you, but in Matthew 1, the lineage of Jesus is listed through the names of His male ancestors. That’s the way it was done. However, there were three women who broke the mold and made the list. They were Mary the Mother of Jesus, Ruth the Moabite, and Rahab the Harlot… who happened to be the great, great grandmother of King David, and the multi-great grandmother of Jesus the Christ.

I realize this part is a fairy tale to many, but it’s fascinating to me, and “I’m the one driving this team of mules.” -- That’s what Daddy used to say before we went on vacation. “Everybody get in the car. I’m driving this team of mules!”

If Dad had been the first in our clan, my name would probably be Mark Muleman. I could just hear Coach Stevens, my football coach. “Muleman, you jack ass! What were you doing on that play?” Everyone would laugh at the pun. -- Like I’d never heard it before. – Aren’t names crazy? – Next time.


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