Who received their name directly from God?
One can easily think of Jesus and John the Baptist. Other names may come to mind, such as Samuel and Samson. Based on interpretation, some have made the following compilation:
1) Ishmael – Genesis 16:11
2) Isaac – Genesis 17:19
3) Solomon – 1 Chronicles 22:9
4) Josiah – 1 Kings 13:2
5) Cyrus – Isaiah 44:28
6) John – Luke 1:13
7) Jesus – Matthew 1:21
Maher-shalal-hash-baz, one of the sons of the prophet Isaiah, could be added to this (Isaiah 8:1).
A careful study of the way in which each of these received their name from God, reveals considerable differences.
In the case of Josiah a prophetic word was uttered that a king would be raised up with the name of Josiah, who would execute a judgment of God. Centuries later, there was indeed a king named Josiah who fulfilled the prophecy. That is not to say that his parents named him Josiah at God’s command.
This is certainly true in the case of Cyrus. God foretold by the mouth of the prophet that one day a pagan ruler named Cyrus the people of Israel would help. The chances are nil that his Persian parents knew of the prophecy and named their child Cyrus in obedience to the God of Israel.
Then there is the son of Isaiah. One day God commanded him to write the words Maher-shalal-hash-baz on a plate. It was only after the birth of his son, that he was instructed to use these words as the name for the newborn child (Isaiah 8:3).
When at the end of his life, David charged Solomon to build the temple, he gave his son insight into the background of his name. David explained that God had said that he would have a son with the name Solomon. David did not specifically receive this message before or during the pregnancy of Bathsheba. Although it is possible that God told David at that time, “This is the one you should call Solomon,” it is not explicitly recorded in the Scriptures. In fact, it says clearly that God gave his son the name Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:25).
That leaves four people, who were specifically named by God before birth. With all four both the birth and the name were announced supernaturally. The angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and Sarah, while the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and Elizabeth. Thus these four distinguish themselves in a unique way from the rest. What would God be saying to us through that?