The Names of the Men

“And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.” (Numbers 1:5)

These are the first entries in several long lists of names here in the book of Numbers—all names of men in the 12 tribes of Israel. We know nothing about most of these men except their names, so it is natural to wonder why God had Moses include them in the inspired Scriptures.

In fact, this is one of the objections that skeptics and liberals have raised against the doctrine of verbal inspiration of the Bible. What possible spiritual or doctrinal or practical purpose could be accomplished through these lists of names for any future readers of the Bible?

And there are, indeed, many such lists of names. For example, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles consist almost entirely of names. Then there are the lists in Ezra 2; Ezra 10; Nehemiah 7, 11, and 12; Romans 16; and others.

Information is included about some of these people, of course, and even the meaning of the names may warrant speculation about their parents’ hopes for the children.

But there is also another very cogent reason for God to have included all these names of relatively less significant people in His book. He wants to assure us that He is interested not only in the Abrahams, Daniels, Pauls, and other great men in His Kingdom, but also in the Elizurs and Shedeurs and Bills and Kates in His spiritual family.

There are many millions of names “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27), and the heavenly Lamb—the Lord Jesus Christ—is also the Good Shepherd that “calleth his own sheep by name” (John 10:3). The names in His book here on Earth are an assurance that He knows and calls us by each of our names in His book in heaven. HMM

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