Names were very important in the Bible and the one who did the naming had authority over the one that was named. To know somebody’s name was to have a claim over them. Joseph was renamed when he became the Pharaoh’s right hand man. Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah were all renamed by King Nebuchadnezzar.
In the Old Testament, you see God renaming Abram and Sarai, as well as Jacob. This was God’s way of claiming special authority and ownership of these people. Indeed, they were the patriarchs of the Jewish people. A comparable event took place when Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter.
For a long time Abraham’s descendants had no name for God. God first identified Himself to Moses as “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” which is not really a name rather an identifier. Moses does a very bold thing, He asks God to reveal His name that Moses might tell the Israelites. God tells Moses that it is “Yahweh” which means “I am who am”.
Many Jews will not speak or write the name of God because it is too holy, too sacred. They will use terms like Adonai which means “the Lord”. There is a whole commandment devoted God’s name. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold guiltless who takes his name in vain. To know and to speak God’s name was to have a claim on Him.
When the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah, he told him to call the child John. God claimed special ownership over this child before he was even conceived. Zechariah had doubted God and was struck dumb. When Elizabeth said that the child’s name would be John it caused great consternation among the people gathered. It wasn’t a family name. Could his father be in agreement? So they went to Zechariah who had the authority to name this child. When Zechariah wrote “His name is John”, he was acknowledging the authority of God over this child. It was his way of expressing his belief in everything that Gabriel had said about what he would do. It was like an “amen” if you will. Immediately, he was able to speak.
An angel also came to Joseph in a dream telling him to name the child Jesus. This had a twofold meaning. Heaven was acknowledging Joseph’s authority by giving to him the name by which he was to be called. Heaven was also claiming ownership over this child.
These events compare to when a Roman soldier said, “This truly was the Son of God.” The Romans thought that they had dominion over Jesus and that they could do with Him what they willed. But when Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn in two from the TOP to the bottom, the earth quaked, the sun failed, and people rose from their tombs and walked about. The Romans never had ownership over Him. Jesus had called God His Father, and it was now clear to the soldier that He was God’s son.
Referenced scriptures Genesis 41:37-46, Daniel 1, Genesis 17, Genesis 32:28, Matt. 16:18, Exodus 3, Exodus 20:7, Luke 1, Matthew 1:21, Matthew27:51-54