Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings
Name ~ shem
By Jeff A. Benner

When we see a name such as "King David" we see the word "King" as a title and "David" as a name. In our western mind a title describes a character trait while a name is simply an identifier. In the Hebrew language there is no such distinction between names and titles. Both words, King and David, are descriptions of character traits, King is "one who reigns" while David is "one who is loved". It is also common to identify the word "Elohiym" (God) as a title and YHWH (Yahweh, the LORD, Jehovah) as a name. What we do not realize is that both of these are character traits, YHWH meaning "the one who exists" and Elohiym is "one who has power and authority". The Hebrew word "shem" more literally means "character". When the Bible speaks of taking God's name to the nations, he is not talking about the name itself but his character. When the command to not take God's name in vain literally means not to represent his character in a false manner. It is similar to our expression of "having a good name" which is not about the name itself but the character of the one with that name.

AHLB# 1473-A (N)