15 Biblical Names for Modern Boys

OT names from Esau to Uri

By Linda Rosenkrantz

The Jewish High Holiday season is a perfect time to look for some Old Testament boys’ names that would work perfectly well on a modern boy. The Bible is filled with challenging appellations from Ahitub to Zephaniah, but there are also other more contemporary sounding names that have been rarely ussed. Very few of those listed below have ever appeared on the Social Security list, and the ones that have just made brief cameos in the distant past–though you will see a few that have already been discovered by our berries.

Here are 15 viable possibilities.

AdlaiThis appealing name with political/historic ties to distinguished members of the Stevenson family edged onto the popularity list a few times in the 1890’s. You can pronounce it either ad-lay or ad-lie.

Benoni –Looking for a singular path to Ben? This might be it—the name Rachel originally named her son Benjamin, before Jacob, his father changed it.

BoazOne Biblical boy that has scored on NB, reaching #203, and it’s also 36 in the Netherlands. The second husband of Ruth in the OT, it’s associated with the holiday of Shavuot. That final Z gives it some contemporary zip, and it’s s great pathway to the cool nickname Bo.

EsauThe son of Isaac and Rebecca and twin of Jacob also edged onto the list at the turn of the last century, but has been MIA ever since. But he could certainly fit in with all those other popular E-boys, like Ezra, Ethan, Elijah, Elliot and Everett.

Jabez—This neglected name has a ridiculous number of assets in addition to  its noble Biblical heritage (“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers”) going for it, most prominently its charming Southern accent and jazzy feel. Well used by the Pilgrims, it hasn’t been in the Top 1000 since 1880. Now’s your chance to bring it back!

JemuelA biblical son of Simeon, Jemuel could work as a successor to Samuel, with the cool nickname Jem, newly rediscovered via To Kill a Mockingbird.

JoahMeaning “brother of God, this name was borne by four men in the Old Testament. Its aural kinship with #1 name Noah could give it a leg up as being familiar, yet more distinctive.

JubalMentioned in Genesis as the inventor of several musical instruments—the lyre, flute, harp and organ—this would make a jubilant choice for a music-loving family.

JethroHe was the wise and compassionate father of Moses’s wife Zipporah and has the excellent meaning of ‘excellence’. Unfortunately, midcentury pop culture saddled it with a kind of hayseed image, but it’s time now to be appreciated for its lively o-ending sound .

Kenanpronounced KEE-nan, this is one of the most current sounding names on the list, perhaps through its connection to SNL’s Kenan Thompson. The biblical Kenan was a great-grandson of Adam and nephew of Abraham; he died at the age of 910.

LabanWith the pure meaning of “white,” well-connected Laban was the brother of Rebecca, father of Rachel and Leah, and grandfather of the twelve tribes of Israel. Thomas Hardy used Laban for a character in Far from the Madding Crowd. A variation is Lavan.

OrenBiblical and botanical, Oren means ‘pine tree’. One of those responsible for establishing the tribe of Judah, Oren is already #299 on Nameberry and, trivia tidbit, was the name of Johnny Depp’s grandfather,

PerezPerez was one of the biblical twin sons born to Tamar and Judah. This one would certainly be comfortable in the Hispanic community.

TobiahWay less known than Tobias, the Greek form of the name, Tobiah has a stronger biblical feel. Tobiah appears in the book of Nehemiah as the name of a rebel Hebrew king. Could definitely enjoy playdates with Elijah and Isaiah.

UriShort and strong, Uri is commonly heard in Israel and was the name of two Old Testament figures, and is a symbolic name for boys born on Hanukkah. Its usability is reflected by its rank at Number 459 on Nameberry. Winona Ryder has a brother named Uri..

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10 Responses to “15 Biblical Names for Modern Boys”

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mill1020 Says:

September 28th, 2017 at 11:17 pm

I think Adlai, Jethro, and Oren/Orin have a lot of potential to become more popular. Also, in Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, Laban is described as kind of an unsavory guy, so that would be a big negative association for me.

maggiemary Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 7:39 am

I have loved Joah forever, and my one fear right now, is it will skyrocket as people look for alternatives to Noah. Guess I’ll have to hurry up, find a husband, and get having kids before that happens!

beynotce Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 8:00 am

I’d been thinking about poor underrated Esau this week. I teach a pre-K Sunday school class, and our lesson last week featured the twins Jacob and Esau. Several kids eagerly let me know that they knew someone named Jacob, but not a one commented on Esau’s name. He’s not exactly a Biblical hero, but Jacob’s name, in keeping with the theme of this story, literally means supplanter, and that hasn’t held it back from wild popularity. Esau deserves little love, too.

I love Boaz right now, and the potential for “Bo” as a nickname combined with the trendy “z” means it’s probably poised for a lot of other people to fall in love with it, too. Kind of a Bodhi-meets-Ezra.

I think if Jabez were going to take off, it would have done so ten or fifteen years ago, following on the popularity of the book The Prayer of Jabez. Alas, even among evangelical Christians, the name has stayed rare.

I like Tobiah and Joah, more masculine names ending in the “-ah” sound! Uri still sounds distinctly Israeli to my ear. Kenan is great, and I had no idea it was biblical!

lesliemarion Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 8:42 am

I love Adlai, Esau, Jubal, and Jethro. Great choices!

cgwaltney Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 10:16 am

Boaz is my guilty pleasure. Sadly, I’m not brave enough to use it!

TiffanyS Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 11:17 am

I can see Boaz and Kenan being very usable.

But Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Then he got greedy with the sheep, agreeing to give Jacob the spotted and speckled ones, and then sending those ones off three days journey with his sons, so Jacob couldn’t find them.

Even if the name is pronounceable, I wouldn’t use it. Laban was a shifty guy.

stephaniebrooke Says:

September 29th, 2017 at 11:31 am

I know a Keenan, might clear up pronunciation issues without butchering the spelling. I would ultimately use Jonah before I would use Joah, as Joah might look like a misspelling.

stella2007 Says:

September 30th, 2017 at 6:50 am

Great names, Adlai is very cool!

Nysha Says:

October 1st, 2017 at 10:12 am

I know a Boaz who just turned one and his nickname is Bo. Jet would be a great nickname for Jethro and would take it out of hillbilly status. I really like Joah and Tobiah, too.

courtnicole Says:

October 2nd, 2017 at 9:03 pm

I am madly in love with Oren!

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