When reading the Bible, we need also to remember that people in ancient times frequently had more than one name as well. Keeping this in mind will help clarify various passages that may seem somewhat ambiguous. When studying the book of Genesis, it is helpful to bear in mind that Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and Jacob’s to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Later, while living in Egypt, “Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah” (Genesis 41:45). Numerous other individuals mentioned in the Bible also were known by more than one name.
Attention needs to be given to how the Bible writers frequently used different names when referring to the same person, because recognition of such name usage may help clarify certain alleged contradictions. Take, for instance, Matthew 1:9. Someone might wonder why Matthew mentioned Uzziah as being the father of Jotham, while 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 3:12 call Jotham’s father Azariah. The answer lies in the fact that that both names apply to the same person. Within the same chapter (2 Kings 15), Jotham’s father is called both Azariah (15:7) and Uzziah (15:32). The names are different, but they refer to the same person (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-23; Isaiah 1:1).
Countless Bible questions can be answered logically just by acknowledging that the ancients often were just as flexible in their giving of names as people are in the twenty-first century.
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