Thursday, May 20, 2010

Call me "Salathiel"

Why so? Well, it turns out that it's an old family name on my mom's side, and as you might guess, it's been the object of some degree of hilarity--"what kind of sadist would name their child 'Salathiel'?", and so on.

It's still something of a different name, but I'm starting to clue in, I think, to why my ancestors carried that name. It's fairly subtle; Salathiel, or Shealtiel in the Old Testament, is only mentioned as the son of Jehoiachin and the father of Zerubbabel in 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Matthew, and Luke. He is almost deliberately obscure.

However, I can start to infer my ancestors' reasoning through this; Salathiel was the son of a wicked king, and the father of a Godly governor. He was the person who should have sat on the throne in Jerusalem, but could not due to the exile. In fact, I would have to guess that he never even saw the land he should have ruled; his father was either eight or eighteen when taken to Babylon, and it was seventy years later that his son returned. He may not have even lived to see the edict allowing his son to return.

He thus had every reason to become, for all practical purposes, a Babylonian--worship pagan gods some, enjoy the non-kosher foods Daniel rejected, and collect a harem of pagan women--certainly the rulers of Babylon would have given him a small palace and encouraged him to drink himself into a stupor, as was their custom. He could also have lived a life in brooding and bitterness at the position that had been denied him through no fault of his own.

Instead, somehow, he ended up raising the son who helped Ezra and Nehemiah rebuild first the Temple, and then Jerusalem itself. I would have to guess that he--seeing the chastisement of his father and the punishment of his nation--chose (like Moses) to forego the pleasures of worldliness in order to invest in a future that he probably did not live to see.

He is probably not a bad role model for the times we live in today, as we see the financial and political institutions our fathers knew degraded and destroyed by our own sin. We may, to a degree, have no choice other than to train our children for a life that we will not be able to enjoy.

It also tells me a bit about my ancestors; explicitly Biblical names, especially obscure names, were largely the province of the Puritans, and this gives me the hope that I will not meet just one Salathiel in Heaven (ben Jehoiachin), but also two other Salathiel Mournings. I must infer that they at least heard the Gospel, and the Salathiel that passed the name down after a generation had evidently responded to it as well.


pentamom said...

It's a good commentary on the name and the character, but there is a history of the later neo-Puritans (e.g. mid-19th century Prots) using old testament names really inappropriately, too. It seems like in some cases, the thinking was, "It comes from the Bible, so it's a good name," without regard to the etymology or heritage of the name.

So maybe your ancestors were that smart, and maybe they weren't. ;-)

Bike Bubba said...

Along those lines, my step-uncle's given name is "Tobias," a name also known in Nehemiah....he goes by Ned for most of us. :^)

pentamom said...

Hmmm...I wonder if there's another Tobias? Because a friend of mine, who'd be expected to be much more careful and deliberate about that sort of thing, named his son that. Or maybe it's the etymology?