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Unusual Bible Names: From to Ashbel to Zillah

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By Aurora Firth aka auroradawn

Do you want to name your baby from the Bible but are put off by the popularity of Jacob or Abigail? Are you looking for a great name that no one else is using? Consider these 22 obscure yet usable choices. I eliminated a few favorites, such as the jubilant Jubal, in favor of names more likely to be new to many Berries.

Some things I learned: brothers Huz & Buz and Muppim & Huppim (not kidding!) testify that matchy sibsets are nothing new. Many Hebrew names, especially ones ending in -iah (signifying Jehovah), were unisex. It’s difficult to ascertain the meaning of many names, partly due to homophony (see the recent post.)

I hope you enjoy the list as much as I enjoyed compiling it!


Ashbel – this name, which comes with cool nickname Ash, belonged to a son of Benjamin.  Ashbel Smith was an American medical student befriended by James Fenimore Cooper when they were in Paris in the 1830’s.

Jehu – “Jehovah is He.” A dashing name for a dashing dude! The most famous Jehu was a military commander-turned-king known for his crazy chariot-driving. Read his story in 2 Kings 9 & 10.

Jezreel – “God sows.” This place name was also the symbolic name given by God to the prophet Hosea’s first son. Its cool Z and its similarity to the more familiar Israel could make Jezreel a good modern choice.

Ornan – “Strong.” Ornan is an almost unknown name which fits the 2-syllable, N-ending boy name trend. His threshing-floor was purchased by King David as an altar site.

Othniel—“God is force.” Othniel was the first judge of Israel, Caleb’s nephew and son-in-law. With its similarity to favorites Daniel and Nathaniel, Othniel should make it in the modern world.

Reuel – “Friend of God.” This soft-yet-sturdy name belonged to Moses’ father-in-law (also called Jethro) and was the second middle name of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Shadrach – In spite of Meshach and Abed-nego, Shadrach deserves to be considered. The handsome Babylonian name of the Hebrew captive Hananiah would shorten to the crisp Shad.

Shaphan – Like Ornan, this rare name fits current trends; its vowel sounds match Nathan’s.  Shaphan was most notably the name of the scribe who brought the lost book of the Law to Israel’s King Josiah.

Thelasar – this Old Testament place name, also spelled Telassar, caught my eye because of its similarity to Elessar, one of Aragorn’s names. It’s also similar to possibly-rising star Balthazar.

Zaccai – The name of a man whose descendants returned to Jerusalem and probably the root of Zacchaeus, Zaccai sports hip initial Z and could be nicknamed either the mainstream Zac or the newly-cool Cai.

Zimri – this vibrant name had a couple of bad-boy bearers (read about them in Numbers 25 and 1 Kings 16 before using it!) Ethan Allen had brothers named Zimri and Heber; in 1 Chronicles 2:6, Ethan, Zimri and Heber are listed as brothers.


Ahinoam – (ah-HIN-oh-am) “My brother is pleasant.” This sweet little-sister name belonged to both a wife of King Saul and a wife of King David. It could be nicknamed Noa.

Asenath – She was the wife of Joseph and the daughter of an Egyptian priest, and the root of her name may be the Egyptian goddess-name Neit or Neith.

Athaliah – (ath-ah-LYE-ah or ath-AHL-ee-ah) “Jehovah is exalted.” Focusing on this name’s musical sound and great meaning and ignoring its nasty bearer (2 Kings 11) could make it a lovely modern choice.Casiphia – “Bright, silvery, shining.” This undiscovered Old Testament place name, which comes with nicknames Cassie and Fia, would be a gorgeous choice. The full name shares sounds with popular Sophia.

Elisheba – “Oath of God.” This early form of Elizabeth was the name of Aaron’s wife.

Maranatha – “Our Lord, come.” An emphatic Aramaic phrase used by Paul, this could make a pretty name with nicknames including Mary/Merry and Annie.

Mehetabel – This name is literally queenly, belonging to the wife of an early king of Edom. Its dignity could be softened with nicknames Hetty, Belle or Bella.

Shiphra – “Beauty.” Shiphra(h) was one of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1:15 who defied the Pharaoh’s command by refusing to kill the Hebrew boy babies they delivered.

Timna –This unisex name seems better suited to a girl these days. It could be a feminine way to honor a Timothy.

Tiria – “Foundation.” It’s used only once, in 1 Chronicles 4:16—for a man. In my 21st-century American ears, it’s too pretty for a boy.

Zillah Zillah was a wife of Lamech in Genesis 4:19, and the name was in the U.S. Top 1000 in the 1800’s. An important name in Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Swiftly Tilting Planet, where it evolves through forms Zyll and Zylle, it deserves to be revived.

Aurora Firth, known on Nameberry as auroradawn, is an artist (, big sister, and name nerd whose particular interest in Bible names stems from her Christian faith. 

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About the author


Aurora Firth, known on Nameberry as auroradawn, is an Alaskan Christian, artist, and big sister with an incurable love for names.
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