Some of the name given in the Torah are frequently explained by Chazal to mean something about the person. For example the Gemorah (Sanhedrin 82B) says that the real name of Cozbi bas Tzur was Shevilnai bas Tzur. She was called Cozbi because she distorted . The Gemora continues to say similar things about Zimri and some of his names. It ends by saying that his name was Shelumiel ben Tzurshadey but does not explicitly say that Zimri was not his name .

Question is if there is any source that says that in general names in the Torah are possibly not the persons given name. Some of the names that evil people have in the Torah are very difficult to imagine that their parents called them by such a name at birth. Particularly after seeing what Chazal explain them to have meant

Other than the Gemorah Sanhedrin mentioned above which is discussing specific people and explicitly says that Cozbi was not her real name is there any source that in general a name mentioned in the Torah may not be the persons actual name?

  • If in one case it's not the real name, surely that's logically sufficient to prove in any case it MAY not be the real name
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 19 at 0:33
  • Sometimes the same person has two different names
    – Heshy
    Commented Jun 19 at 11:59
  • Even Moses 's real name was tuvia-- gemara sotah. Maybe a relation Commented Jun 19 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


I don't know if there's a source. But sometimes it seems painful to accept the idea that the names are their actual names. For example, names in Ruth.

Meanings of referenced names in the Book of Ruth

Mahlon means "sickness" and Chilion "wasting", which, as is the common theme throughout the scroll, aligns closely with the characters' roles in the relevant events.[2] According to some of modern scholarship, this gives a consciously fairytale-like quality to the story.[3] It also reflects the cultural norm pervasive in Tanakh of naming children based on external events, such as Naomi changing her own name to Mara (“Call me Mara, because the Almighty has dealt quite bitterly with me."), Abram having his name changed to Abraham, Peleg (lit. "division") being named after the division of nations. Mahlon and Chilion being born in a time of famine follows this trend.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahlon_and_Chilion

In your opinion, how likely is it that parents would name their children Sickness and Wasting? I'm not saying those names couldn't have existed, we live in an age where people name their kids all sorts of things. But most Jews today are so careful to name their children just the right name, and make sure that it's positive and is filled with good intentions. And the Bible apparently shows a Judaism that names their children awful things which often depict their terrible fates; such as Sickly and Wasting dying. It's up to you to decide what to do with that contradiction.

  • 1
    Seems the OP knows this already and is seeking a source anyway
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 19 at 1:56
  • 1
    Mahlon and Chilion were the sons of Naomi and Elimelech (see Ruth 1:2). Mahlon was the husband of Ruth and Chilion was the husband of Orpah.
    – Edward B
    Commented Jun 19 at 5:14
  • Thank you for the correction. Let me know if my edits helped
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:40

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