The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Now these were the sons of David, which were born unto him in Hebron; the firstborn Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; the second Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess:Some Strange Names—The Sons of David—Zerubbabel
1 Chronicles 3
Who has not in a foreign hostelry anxiously looked over the visitors' list in the hope that he might find some familiar name, and so put himself upon the track of a friendly predecessor in the journey which he is pursuing? Who has not also wandered through an unknown cemetery, questioning every tombstone, if haply he might detect some name which would awaken the memories of his youth, or connect him with the associations of his own locality? So here, having read from the beginning of the Bible up to this point, we have, so to say, contracted acquaintance with a great number of persons; and now that a long list of names is put before us for perusal, what more natural than that we should in the first instance look for the names which awakened attention in our earliest studies? But the names are very strange. Nearly all of them are absolutely unknown to us. Think of Ithream, and Shobab, and Nogah, and Nepheg, and Japhia. These names awaken no interest, enrich us with no reminiscences, call us back to no trysting-place where we entered into vow with God or man. These names are, so to say, many variations of alphabetic symbols, making no appeal either to memory or imagination. Is it possible that we ourselves may become as unknown to the generations which are to succeed us? In answering this enquiry we are not addressing an appeal to ambition, when we say that it lies within our power, so to live as to establish a good and honest name in at least some limited family circle. It may be that the most of human life is predestined to be but negative as to influence and renown. But whilst the mountains are noble, and are so lifted up as to be conspicuous from afar, we must never forget that the lowlands may acquire fame for civilisation and fruitfulness. Neither must we forget that there is a false fame, which continually tempts selfish ambition, and also a holy fame which will not be disclosed until God himself pronounces judgment upon all the actors in human history.
The name of Daniel is found in the first verse of this chapter. He is mentioned as a son of David. So familiar are we with the name of Daniel that we seem to limit it to one man. There would appear to be in all history but one Daniel great in goodness and in wisdom. His name has come to be but another word for sagacity and judgment. We may here remind ourselves that Daniel the son of David is called Chileab in the Book of Samuel. If names may be taken as indicative of character then we come upon the strange thought that Daniel was nicknamed "dog," that being the literal rendering of the word Chileab. Was the name deserved? Is this but a mark of contempt on the part of every speaker? It is possible to have two names and for the alias to be utterly undeserved. We are not to suppose that a man is bad because his contemporaries have pronounced judgment against him. Many a man is called mean, timid, cunning, selfish, calculating, ambitious and the like by those who only see certain aspects of character and are unable to determine the balance and effect of all his faculties and dispositions. We should beware of the easy and foolish cleverness which can invent nicknames. This teaching might be remembered with advantage alike in private and public circles. Even religious men have not been slow to misname one another by giving undue prominence to single characteristics and withdrawing the general line of gift and purpose from public criticism. It may seem but a commonplace to say that Daniel was not a "dog" simply because he was so described by malignant or perverted wit. Think of men's best names. Look out for men's strongest and noblest qualities. Leave all nicknames and flippant depreciation to those who, having outlived their own character, seek to bring others into some degradation. Take some of the names of David's sons as given in the fifth verse of this chapter. The sons in question were born to David in the city of Jerusalem. As we read their names they convey no meaning to us, but as defined etymologically we may get a new aspect of part at least of the king's household. Ibhar, signifies "God chooseth;" Elishama, "God heareth;" Eliphelet, "God is deliverance;" Eliada, "God knoweth." Keeping in mind the well-established fact that in Oriental countries, it was customary to mark family history by the names of the children, we can but be struck with the deep religiousness of the family record now before us. There is no trace of atheism made by the hand of David in all his family register. In every child David sees some new revelation of God. Every son was an historical mark. Every life was a new phase of providence. Blessed is the man who need not look beyond his own house for signs and proofs of the manifold and never-ceasing goodness of God. Is it not true that even in our own land and time, religious memories or providential events are brought up by the name of every child? One brings up the memory of great darkness, another of peculiar pain, another recalls the brightest morning that ever dawned, and another stands at the beginning of a course of providences, brilliant in their glory and deeply pathetic in inexpressible tenderness. In this sense, no child comes into the world as a solitary visitor. Each birth is the heading of a new chapter, and each chapter falls naturally out of the one which immediately preceded it. Shame be on those who can receive providences without noting them, who can allow God to pour out the whole heaven upon earth, and yet set up no sign of adoring gratitude. It was not so with David. If faults many and great, and never to be excused, marred the harmony and dignity of his character, yet never did he forget that God was his Shepherd and that to God all praises evermore belong.
We come upon the same view in looking at the names of the kings of the house of David. These names are found in verses ten to sixteen. Take examples: Rehoboam literally means "the kinsman," and that term must be understood as giving the idea "God hath enlarged," that is, has added to the number of the family and so multiplied all domestic incidents, resources and securities; Abia, signifies "God is Father;" Jehoshaphat, "God judgeth;" Joram (Jehoram), "God is high;" Amaziah points to strength; Azariah points to help; Jotham indicates perfectness; and Hezekiah signifies "God is my strength." We have often had occasion to point out the irony of names. Whilst in our case there may be no irony of a nominal kind, that is to say, no discrepancy between our names and our actions, yet there may be palpable irony of a circumstantial kind; for example, a man may be surrounded by wealth and yet may be known for his meanness, so that the poor receive nothing from his table, nor are the weak assisted by his hands. The wealthy man who is mean is a self-contradiction. Others of us may have the privilege of living in Christian families, yet in our spirit and thought we may belong to the coldest paganism. The family altar may be but a pile of stones, and the family repute for Christian consecration may be but a concealment of the deepest worldliness of thought and desire. In this direction we may discover what may be termed many unconscious hypocrisies. The member of a Christian family might not consciously use the Christian repute of the household for the cover of an unsympathetic heart. The irony as we have said may be purely circumstantial. Yet even here there should be some attempt made to behold claims of honesty. The man who is mean should never make a bid to be regarded by the public as a generous person. The man who is profoundly worldly in every aspiration and arrangement should not use a Christian pedestal as a mere convenience enabling him to take a wider outlook or to exercise a larger influence.
In verses nineteen and twenty, we come upon a name with which we are familiar, Zerubbabel—this was the famous prince who, with Joshua the high priest, led the first colony of restored exiles from Babylon to Canaan under the edict of Cyrus. This occurred some five centuries before the birth of Christ. The name of Zerubbabel's father was Pedaiah, which signifies "God hath redeemed." The name of the father would seem to have been an inspiration to the son. For truly he was a redeemer and leader of his people. Thus all the names of the kindred and sons of Zerubbabel indicate the religious hopefulness of the people at the dawn of the restoration. All this matter connected with the signification of names is notable, because it points to the greatest incident of all, which we find in the person of the Son of God, who was called Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins. It will be found that all hints of this kind discoverable in the Old Testament, which seem to have little or no value in their own immediate connection, are in reality parts of the living line which terminates in Jesus Christ, and then in him takes a new departure in the direction of all Christian service and heroism.