ANSWER: There are several individuals in Scripture who have been renamed by those other than God. This is usually done for a variety of reasons. For example, as captives in Babylon, Daniel and his three friends were referred to differently when they began to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was called Belteshazzar, Mishael was called Meshach, Hananiah was known as Shadrach, and Azariah became Abed-Nego (Daniel 1:6 - 7).
The Bible does mention a few individuals who were RENAMED directly by God or Jesus Christ. Abram was changed to Abraham (meaning "father of many nations," see Genesis 17:1 - 5) then the Eternal changed his wife's from Sarai to Sarah (which means "mother of many nations," see verses 15 - 16). Jacob, the grandson of Abram (Abraham), was renamed to Israel (meaning "someone who prevails with the Eternal," see Genesis 32:24 - 28).
|"When the Lord first spoke to Israel through Hosea, he said to Hosea, 'Go and get married; your wife will be unfaithful (the KJV has 'a wife of whoredoms' or a wife who is a whore), and your children will be just like her'" (Hosea 1:2)|
As children were born to Hosea's "whore wife" the Lord named each of them as a testament against the house of Israel (northern ten tribes). The first child, a boy, was called Jezreel, meaning that He would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the royal house of king Jehu. The second child of the whore, a girl, was called Lo-Ruhamah, because the Lord decided not to be merciful to the house of Israel any longer. The third child, a boy, was called Lo-Ammi, which generally means the Eternal no longer considered Israel his people.
3. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, who conceived and bore him a son. 4. And the LORD said to him, "Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and will cause the kingdom of the house of Israel to cease.
6. And she conceived again and bore a daughter. And God said to him, "Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel. But I will utterly take them away.
8. And when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah she conceived and bore a son. 9. And He said, "Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God (Hosea 1:3 - 4, 6, 8 - 9, HBFV)
Only four people in the entire New Testament were renamed. The scriptures tell us that Jesus gave three of these new references during his earthly ministry. Simon, sometime after becoming one of Jesus' original twelve disciples, was called Peter, which means a little stone (John 1:40 - 42). Not many people, however, are aware that Jesus gave the brothers John and James a rather humorous designation of 'the sons of thunder' (Mark 3:13 - 17)!
The fourth person renamed in the New Testament was Saul, who became Paul. The Bible does not state if God gave him the new reference or not. We do know, however, that he was called Paul sometime after his baptism. The last time 'Saul' (which means "demanded" or "death") is mentioned in the New Testament and the first place where he is called Paul (which means "small" or "little") is in Acts 13. This renaming is mentioned when he performs a major miracle during his first missionary journey.
9. But Saul, who was also called Paul, being filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on him (a false prophet named Bar-jesus), 10. And said, "O full of all guile and all craftiness, you son of the devil and enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the straight ways of the Lord? 11. And now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a season" (Acts 13:9 - 11)