Old Testament Baby Names: On choosing Job
Our son’s name is Job. No, not “job,” as in a vocation. It is pronounced with a long “o,” and rhymes with robe. As in, the book of Job in the Bible, the story about a man who is visited with overwhelming trials. Yeah—that Job.
We started receiving pushback almost immediately. It started with friends and family. We both come from Christian homes, so the name Job is familiar to many in our circle. We were somewhat entertained by the emotional reactions; it was suggested that if we were to name our baby after someone who experienced so many trials, well, perhaps we were setting our kid up for hard times. And besides, the official meaning of Job is “persecuted” or “afflicted.” Surely we wouldn’t want to give our son a name with such a meaning!
The wariness toward Job didn’t stop there.
As I am an admitted name-troll during pregnancy, I was constantly online in my spare time, researching names and reading/commenting on others’ choices. On several naming sites, I would post that we were considering Job and why we were toying with the idea of using it. I certainly received the full spectrum of commentary!
Many of the comments were of the “it’s not my taste, but to each his own” variety, but some commenters were more serious in their cautions against Job. They feared that giving our son a name associated with negativity would condemn him for life. It was almost as if the name Job was in the category of Judas, Hitler, or Stalin.
Then, there was the group of helpful commenters who wanted to make sure we knew that people would call him job (as in a vocation)— the Biblical name Job was just not well-known, they’d insist. Some suggested we change the spelling to Jobe, so that people might have a better shot at pronouncing it correctly on the first try. We weren’t too concerned; our daughter’s name is Amaré (pronounced Am-uh-RAY), so getting only one mispronunciation would be an improvement!
Job also drew a colorful group of commenters from the UK who would try to politely let me know that our choice of nickname, Joby, was the colloquial word for “#2” in parts of the UK. I did pause at that particular caution, but quickly decided that since John, Randy, and Dick were well-used names over the years, one more name-with-a-potential-potty-mouth-meaning should not be a true deterrent.
It was the in-person reactions, though, that left me both amused and despairing at the same time. At first, I would tentatively mention our name ideas just to see a person’s face. Most of the time, Job was not on anyone’s radar. Not being Mason, Aiden, or Jacob, it would often take a moment for the person to process that a name like Job would even be considered. Seriously. By parents who seemingly loved their soon-to-be-born son. Eyebrows would raise, surprise would register on faces (followed by an attempt, unsuccessfully, to mask the reaction), and responses would be stuttered: “Oh, that’s…uh, that’s…well now, that’s a name you don’t hear every day.”
But to be honest, perhaps the only reaction that genuinely hurt was silence. It made me think of the old saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The silence really got to me.
I admit that all of this early feedback tempted me toward the Mommy-blues. I began to second-guess the name we had settled upon, Job Marcellus. We loved our chosen middle name (Marcellus is a derivation of my husband’s deceased father’s name, Marcel). Everyone liked Marcellus. But, Job was our favorite. And, other than the two of us and our closest family members, we seemed to be alone in our admiration.
So, I went back to the drawing board on why we loved the name. The Bible’s story of Job’s faithfulness was what drew us in the first place. Here was a man whose faith never wavered, whether he had endless blessings and wealth or he was in a place of misery and loss (it should be noted, at the end of Job’s story, his possessions were greater than at the beginning). Here was a man whose name it would be an honor to bear—and whose faithfulness in believing God would be an amazing legacy. A boy bearing such a name would always have a great example to live by, in both the good and bad times. My husband and I talked it over at length, and finally decided that Job was, indeed, the name for our son. (For the record, as my husband’s opinion on the name never faltered, this deep conversation actually consisted of his listening as I went back and forth with myself.)
We’ve had our little Joby for four months now, and I really can’t imagine his name being any different. Sure, his name is occasionally pronounced “job”—although people often self-correct before we even say anything, as most are bright enough to realize we probably did not name our child a synonym for vocation. And, yes, we still get an occasional raised eyebrow, implying that if we really knew the story behind the name, we wouldn’t have chosen it. Worst of all—yes, we do sometimes still get that silence. But, I am happy to report that after consideration, many people end up liking the name. And at the end of the day, Job is no stranger than naming a child, say, Noah.
I’m not going to say that I don’t sometimes wish that people would hear his name and exclaim about how cute it is, how much they love it, how they wanted to use that name for their kid, and so on. But, if that were happening all the time, I probably wouldn’t like it as much. We wanted a name that stood out. A name that was strong, but not common. A name with a deep meaning.
Job it is.
Note: That’s Job in the illustration.