Mosiah 13:15 — LeGrand Baker — new king-names
5 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
In the Catholic/Protestant/Jewish/zilch-nothing culture we live in, that commandment is interpreted to mean “don’t use God’s name to blaspheme,” but everyone does it all the time, on TV and elsewhere, so the commandment is not taken to mean very much at all.
I would like to write about the significance of new/kingly/covenant names. But in the ancient context in which that commandment was given, it meant something more, very different and very powerful.
Our names are our identities. When one has a new name has a new identity and therefore he is a different person when that new name is used. Becoming a king or a queen is requisite upon becoming a new person with a new name. When a new king is coronated he is always given new names. In ancient Egypt he was given three, in modern England, only one. In ancient Israel, it appears that both “David” and “Solomon” were not the original names of the persons, but were official king names.
The account in II Sam 12:24-25 of the birth of Jedidiah-Solomon imputes the former name to the prophet Nathan under divine inspiration and the latter to Bathsheba or David. … Solomon is the throne name and Jedidiah the private name…. The slayer of Goliath was Elhanan the son of Jesse of Bethleham, (II Sam. 21:19) Elhanan can be none other than he who reigned as David. Honneyman, A. H., “The Evidence for Regnal Names Among the Hebrews,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 1984, v. 67, p 13-25.}
When the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, he gave both Abraham and his wife new covenant names. When the people of king Benjamin made a covenant to obey the Lord, he gave them a new covenant name.
Moroni wrote a poem (an expression of the covenant) on his “garment:” he gave it the title of “LIBERTY.” He then drew a geographic line around names of his country (defining it as sacred space); he made a covenant, and gave his country the covenant name of “the land of liberty,” with “liberty” meaning the words of the covenant poem he had written on his garment. Later on, the sons of Helaman made a covenant and took on themselves the name of “Nephites.”
In the Church, each time we make a covenant we get a new name. For example, when we are baptized we take upon ourselves the name of “Christ,” and we reaffirm that name each time we remake the covenant by taking the sacrament.
When God makes a covenant with his people he also takes a new covenant name. For example the God of Abraham was known as “The Most High God.” (El Elyon). He was known and worshiped by that name. Yet, when Moses was on the mountain and the Lord told him to go tell the children of Israel they were going to be delivered, the first thing Moses asked was, “What shall I tell them your name is.” Moses had to. He could not go to the elders of Israel and say, “The Lord has made a covenant with me that he will take you out of Egypt, but he did not ratify that covenant by taking upon himself a new covenant name.” Moses’ claim would have meant nothing unless he was able to tell them the new name which gave validity to the new covenant.
So Moses asked, “What’s your name.” The Lord replied, “I AM.” That’s a very inclusive name. Quite simply it means: I AM sufficient, with the implication of: therefore I have the power to deliver you from Egypt. So Moses went to the rulers of Israel, armed with both the new covenant and the new covenant name.
Another example is Isaiah 48. (But it has to be read in 1 Nephi 20, because some ancient editor in the Bible version messed it up) The story begins,
12 Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called [named] by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, [ordinance] who swear [covenant] by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, yet they swear [covenant] not in truth nor in righteousness. Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, [assume the name, “Zion”] but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord of Hosts is his name. (1 Nephi 20:12)
The words of the covenant they have broken are not given, but its nature is easily deduced from the two new names associated with it. The people have received the name “Israel” which means, depending on the dictionary one uses, either “let God prevail” or “one who speaks or acts for God.” The Lord’s covenant name is “Lord of Hosts” which simply means master of the armies. So the covenant is implied in the names: God is the master and the people will do what is necessary so he will win the battle.
Later on in that chapter, still speaking to the rebellious, the Lord says, “Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off. For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another.” (1 Nephi 20:9)
All I have to do is substitute the word “name” with the word “covenant” and this becomes a perfectly understandable declaration of the Lord’s integrity, and makes perfect sense. I think one can do that. There are many places in the scripture where I believe one can change “name” to “covenant” without changing the meaning of the scripture at all. Because “covenant” and “name” simply refer to the same thing
A little latter on in the story, but in the next chapter, Israel defines himself this way: ” the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.” (1 Nephi 21:1) To me, at least, that is a clear reference to pre-mortal covenants ratified by new covenant names.
Perhaps the most powerful example of this in all the scriptures is in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Given the fact that people’s relationship with God is virtually defined by both his and their new covenant names, the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;” and the attached warning, “for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Should be taken very seriously by Latter-day Saints. It might be understood to read, “Thou shalt not take the covenants of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his covenants in vain.”