January 05, 2017

What’s in a Name?

1 Samuel 9:1-4; Esther 2:1-8

Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai . . . .

—  Esther 2:5

You may be living far away from the place where you were born, but no matter where you go, your name and history go with you. Consider Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand.” Benjamin was Jacob’s youngest son, and he was protected by his brother Judah when they were questioned by Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 44). Benjamin, like his brothers, had many descendants, and among them was Israel’s first king, Saul, the son of Kish.

What does the name Benjamin have to do with Esther’s cousin Mordecai? We learn that Mordecai, of the tribe of Benjamin, is a “son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile . . . by Nebuchadnezzar” (Esther 2:5-6). This wouldn’t be the same Kish who was the father of Saul, but it probably meant that Mordecai was a distant relative of Saul’s father. So, far from the home of his ancestors, a distant relative of Israel’s King Saul goes about his daily business. He’s unaware of what happened to Queen Vashti in Xerxes’ palace until his cousin Esther is swept up in the search for a new queen.

If you are a Christian, you bear the name of Christ—whether at home or far away. Named by Christ, we go about our daily business. And when events bring us before rulers and other powers, may we remember that we belong to Christ and bear his name. 

Help me this day, Lord, to be firmly connected to Jesus Christ, who calls us to serve in his name. Amen.

About the author — Arie C. Leder

Dr. Arie C. Leder is the Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He previously served as pastor at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church, Trenton, Ontario, and with Christian Reformed World Missions in Latin America. He teaches courses on the Pentateuch and on historical books of the Old Testament.

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