The bible on Surnames


Matthew 1:1

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

In scriptures, it was a common thing to name children with reference to their fathers. The father’s name stands as a family reference or as a record. The twelve tribes of Israel were the key references in describing where people came from within the nation of Israel.

Deeds were also a common factor of attaching names to children. The children of Rechab were used as examples to the children of Israel as people that obeyed their father and refused to compromise. They were referred to as the sons of Recab as a result of the deeds of their grandfather and it became a name associated with priesthood.

Jeremiah 35:3-6

Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door. Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine.”

But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever.

You could say that all the names mentioned in these verses will be surnamed “Recab” because they are of the house of the Recabites. In short, the association of a name to a surname has root and it is scriptural. Jesus was referred to as the son of David. The name David was a root name in the linage of our Lord Jesus. Though the examples used mainly referred to men, when women marry their names come under the name of the husband. In short if we are to follow all scriptural examples, your name automatically changes to your husband’s from the moment you marry. Take a closer look at these verses of scripture:

Matthew 1:15-16

Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Joseph was referred to as the HUSBAND of Mary meaning, Mary’s name is now subject to Joseph’s house name, (DAVID); her surname was not mentioned at all (her root name).

As for Christians our surnames are strongly linked to our backgrounds and cultures. In the south of England and parts of Scotland, names were given to make reference to sons, e.g. the son of William can become Williams or Williamson. Modern Christian surnames came as a result of parents’ and grandparents’ association with Christianity; they were often changed depending on family arrangement or couple preferences.

What matters is not necessarily the name, but the coming under a name.  A woman will be named with her husband as a sign of oneness inside marriage.

Genesis 2:24

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

I am not necessarily saying that this scripture means same surname, but it would make perfect sense that if we claim to be one flesh, we should have the same surname. It is well documented and demonstrated that God attaches importance to the name and that all attached to the name should come under it whether male or female.

When you think of David and the importance God attached to his name, it makes you wonder about the extent to which God places significance on the continuity of history and culture. Jesus was called the son of David, one of the great grandsons of the king. It is a culture still emulated in Israel and in various parts of the world. On the other hand, a change in the way we do things can be associated with the spirit of the age. Paul warning Timothy talked about “the last days” in which people will do what seems right but will contradict God’s word.

Lastly, I would stress that a woman is not made inferior because she changes her name; the Holy Spirit does not make a distinction between the man and the woman, but it’s important to stick to traditions that are biblically correct.

7 thoughts on “The bible on Surnames

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