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Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?

Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?

In the Bible book of Ruth, a man who refused to perform his duty according to the Mosaic Law is simply called So-and-so. (Ruth 4:1-12) Should we conclude that all unnamed Bible characters are likewise marred by bad traits or are too insignificant to be named?

No. Consider a different example. To prepare for his final Passover meal, Jesus told his disciples to “go into the city to So-and-so [“a certain man,” The New English Bible]” and get things ready at his home. (Matthew 26:18) Are we to assume that the man referred to as “So-and-so” in this verse was a bad man or that he was too insignificant to be named? Not at all; the “certain man” mentioned here no doubt was a disciple of Jesus. Since his name was not vital to the account, it was omitted.

Furthermore, the Bible record contains the names of many wicked individuals; it also contains examples of many faithful people who go unnamed. For instance, the name of Eve, the first woman, is well-known. Yet, her selfishness and disobedience contributed to the sin of Adam, which cost us all a terrible price. (Romans 5:12) By contrast, Noah’s wife goes unnamed in the Scriptures, but we owe much to her selfless, obedient spirit in supporting her husband in his vital work. Clearly, the omission of her name is no indication of insignificance or of divine disfavor.

There are other unnamed individuals in the Bible record who played important​—even heroic—​roles in Jehovah’s purpose. Think of the little Israelite girl who was a slave in the house of Naaman, a Syrian army chief. She boldly spoke to her mistress, Naaman’s wife, about Jehovah’s prophet in Israel. This led to a great miracle. (2 Kings 5:1-14) The daughter of the Israelite judge Jephthah also set an outstanding example of faith. She willingly gave up the prospect of marriage and childbearing in order to fulfill a vow that her father had made. (Judges 11:30-40) Similarly, there are composers of over 40 psalms who are left unnamed as well as unnamed prophets who faithfully carried out prominent assignments.​—1 Kings 20:37-43.

Perhaps an even more impressive example is that of the faithful angels. There are hundreds of millions of them, yet only two are named in the Bible​—Gabriel and Michael. (Daniel 7:10; Luke 1:19; Jude 9) The rest go unnamed in Bible accounts. For instance, an angel was asked by Manoah, the father of Samson: “What is your name, that when your word comes true we shall certainly do you honor?” The response? “Just why should you ask about my name?” Modestly, that angel refused to accept honor that was due only to God.​—Judges 13:17, 18.

The Bible does not explain in each case why some individuals are named and others are not. But we can learn much from faithful individuals who served God without any prospect of fame or prominence.