The Name a Parent Gives a Child

In Scripture, parents sometimes named their children according to an experience during or before childbirth. One example of this pre-naming is Jesus Christ. Mary had the experience of meeting an angel of God who told her “you will conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name Jesus.” (1) Did this experience influence her? Obviously. Christmas, Easter, and Christianity attest to the effect of Mary’s experience. She named her son Jesus because of her heavenly experience before childbirth, and now all Christians call God’s son Jesus.

We see a tragic example of naming a child before childbirth in Rachel. Rachel “travailed, and she had hard labor.” (2) As she gave birth to her son, she was dying. As she was dying, she named her son Ben-oni which means the son of my sorrow or distress. (3) Rachel named her son Ben-oni because this name reflected her experience during childbirth. We can imagine the sorrow and distress that Rachel felt, knowing that she was dying and would not enjoy, nurture, or experience her newborn growing up as a boy into a man.

But Jacob named his and his wife’s son Benjamin, which means son of my right hand, son of hope, and son of honor. Like Rachel, Jacob named Benjamin from an experience before or during childbirth, but “Benjamin” referred the name to the eternal. By the eternal, I mean the eternal experience instead of the physical. At the tragic moment of Rachel’s soul leaving her body, one cannot say that Jacob was not distressed, saddened, or even hopeful to see his wife live, expecting God to turn things around. Yet if Jacob only looked at these physical circumstances, the name Benjamin wouldn’t have come to his mind. However, Jacob, looking at the eternal—the eternal God—named his son after the eternal blessings. For Jacob, there was more to life than Rachel’s dying body or Benjamin’s birth. There was, for Jacob, an eternal hope, joy, and honor coming into the world.

God’s expectation and hope are like Jacob’s and God is your heavenly father. Therefore, what has God your father named you? What is your name? The answer Scripture gives is “In-Righteousness.” Isaiah says that “the Lord has called you In-Righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will protect you.” (4) Your name is “In-Righteousness.” “In-Righteousness” is a rich name comprising two meanings: relationship and justice.

righteousness: relational and legal

On the one hand, righteousness is a relational term that refers to your relationship with God. A person is righteous when his or her life and actions align with God’s character. In Psalms, David asks God to bless his son Solomon to rule “In-Righteousness.” David says, “Give the king your judgments, O God, and your righteousness unto the king’s son [King Solomon]. King Solomon shall judge your people with righteousness and your poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.” (5) David wanted everything, in Solomon’s rule, to relate to God. This relationship included his son Solomon’s right relationship with God. In other words, David wanted Solomon to rule righteously which was to rule Godly.

On the other hand, righteousness is a legal term. You can think of In-Righteousness as another way of saying in-law. When you’re In-Righteousness, you are in legal conformity with God’s law. As Scripture shows, “That which is altogether In-Righteousness you shall follow, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God gives you.” (6) Here, righteousness functions as a law that you should follow to receive God’s blessings. Therefore, since God names you In-Righteousness (in-law), He expects you to reflect your legal name, not your nickname.

God’s expectation

Thus, God expects you to do right and be right. Before you’re born, He calls you in-relationship to Him and in a legal bond to Him. Your legal name is God’s claim over your life. Scripture says that God names and claims us as His. He gives us a spiritual reputation and expectation to maintain. As Scripture states, “According as He has chosen us in Him [In-Righteousness or In-Law] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (7) God, as a parent to a child, as Jacob to Benjamin, as Mary to Jesus, gave you a special name: In-Righteousness. Holiness, blamelessness, and love are a few attributes that you (In-Righteousness) are to exhibit.


(1) Luke 1:31.
(2) Genesis 36:16.
(3) Genesis 36:18.
(4) Isaiah 42:6.
(5) Psalm 72:1-3.
(6) Deuteronomy 16:20.
(7) Ephesians 1:4-5.