Desert Blooms and Glorious Gems
Names blossom in the Bible! Lily is a flower that symbolizes rebirth, purity, and innocence throughout the book—at #27, it's in full bloom. Myrtle is a small, flowering tree or shrub with white flowers that makes an appearance in Isaiah 55:13, when God promised the people that "instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle," as a sign of peace and strength. Hadassah, the original Hebrew name for Esther, means "myrtle tree."
Other Biblical word names include Beryl, a precious stone known as "God's ornament," Reed (Moses' baby basket was made of reeds), Cypress, and Shepherd. Zac Hanson, of the pop group Hanson, named his son John Ira Shepherd, but calls the boy Shepherd. Jerry Seinfeld also named his second son, Shepherd.
Rising star: At #471 in 2007, Jasper, the name of a gem stone, was popular as a boy's name prior to the 1940s, and is beginning to shine once again. Considered precious and treasured in ancient times, Jasper is also the name of one of the Three Kings, or Magi, who traveled far to bring gifts to the newborn baby, Jesus. He also can be known as Caspar.
Since 1958, Michael has been the first or second most popular boy's name in the United States. In the New Testament, Michael is one of the seven archangels and the leader of heaven's armies. Emperors, kings, and saints have been named Michael, and the name reigned for 38 years, between 1958 and 1999. Both Kelly Ripa and Mark Wahlberg have sons named Michael. The Hebrew form of Michael is Micah, which has risen steadily since 1959, when it entered the Top 1000 at #957, to its present perch at #126 in 2007.
September 29th is the feast day of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Gabriel appeared to Mary to herald the birth of Christ; the name ranked at #38 in 2007. Raphael (#705) is currently less popular than Rafael (#228).
Rising star: Malachi, the name of a minor prophet and Old Testament author, means "messenger of God" in Hebrew. The name rose from #993 to #155 in the past 20 years.
Elijah, one of the most determined prophets in the Old Testament, survived drought and the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, eventually rising up to Heaven in a chariot of fire with a whirlwind. His name first reached the Top 100 in 1995, and is currently ranked at #30. It's abbreviation, Eli, is 100 places behind, at #130.
At #67 Jeremiah is experiencing a surge in popularity, surpassing Jeremy, Jerome, and Jermaine. An Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah wrote the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Robert Redford starred in the 1972 film, Jeremiah Johnson. Its variant, Jeramiah, is much less common at #827.
Rising star: Nehemiah, a Jewish leader in the Old Testament who resurrected the walls of Jerusalem, is enjoying a resurgence on the name charts. Last popular in 1886, Nehemiah began its revival in 1998, rising from #828 to #363 in just 10 years.