I was born David A. Hoover on January 10, 1960 in Bowling Green, Ohio. However, I legally changed my name to David Ben-Ariel (with the help of my Jewish lawyer) during the Spring of 1989. It cost me $300.00.
It also required that I take out a small ad in a newspaper announcing my intentions 30 days beforehand. I placed my ad in the Bowling Green Sentinel.
I also had to appear before a judge (it depends on what county you were born) for him to privately question my motivations. He was assured by my lawyer that I wasn't running from the law or trying to escape some outstanding debt, but that my reasons were religious in nature. The judge accepted that but wanted to impress upon me that I could have "trouble" with that name in America, without elaborating. I felt he meant because it was Jewish and/or could be difficult for some to know how to pronounce. I told him I wasn't concerned about it since I planned on moving to Israel anyway.
My reasons for changing my name were religious in nature. Why? Because I honestly feel that Ben-Ariel is a God-given name. And why would I feel that way? Because after a Hebrew class where my teacher mentioned how many people change their names when they move to Israel, I went home wondering what surname I would have in Israel, knowing my first name is already Hebrew.
I had always liked the Hebrew last name of Ben-Ammi, after reading it in Leon Uris' book Exodus, since it means "son of my people," but while thinking about it and wondering what name my father would've given me, if he would've given me a Hebrew name, I didn't know. I then knelt down in prayer and asked God what name, IF ANY, would He give me since He's my Heavenly Father, and I couldn't ask my dad because he died when I was twelve.
I expected God to perhaps lead or guide or influence me to like a particular name, but immediately ARIEL flashed into my mind and immediately I rejected it. Why? Because it means "the Lion of God" and I felt such a name only belongs to Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. While wondering about the name of Ariel, I remembered that Israel's defense minister was Ariel Sharon (whom I've since met in Jerusalem and Hebron). I reluctantly decided to keep the name in reserve (since it was really impressed upon me!) until God or circumstances might lead me to accept another, and went to bed.
The Bible mentions MANY INCIDENTS where God chose to change someone's name or to name them before their birth. It is unusual but it's not unscriptural. There was Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac (Gen. 17:5, 15, 19); Ishmael (Gen. 16:11); Solomon (I Chron. 22:9) and Solomon's nickname Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25); Cyrus (Isa. 44:28; 45:4); John the Baptist (Lk. 1:13); Jesus (Matt. 1:21); Peter and the two brothers James and John whom Jesus nicknamed "sons of thunder" (Mk. 3:16-17); just to name a few.
God promises to give us each a new and unique name in the Kingdom, either in place of or in addition to our current one (Rev. 2:17), as well as sharing Jesus' new name and bearing the Father's name as Priest-Kings (Rev. 3:12, 14; Ex. 28:36; Lev. 8:9). God has many name or titles, descriptive of His wonderful qualities and characteristics (Isa. 9:6). The Jews even teach that God's Hebrew name Elohim (literally Gods) is plural due to the fact that God is too great to be constrained to one name, and is used in the sense of the royal "We." That's why Elohim said "let us...." We understand that it's also because there's presently two God-Beings in the one Kingdom of God, like Adam and Eve were two separate people who both shared the surname Adam as one family unit (Gen. 2:24; 5:2; Jn. 10:30).
God has His reasons why He would change someone's name and who are we to question Him? The April 1980 issue of the Good News magazine carried an article called "History of the Church" that helps us to understand why Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter: "...and He gave him a surname prophetic of the moral and spiritual strength he would eventually demonstrate. Jesus bestowed upon him the new name, before he had earned it that it might be an incentive to him to realize what Jesus had expected."
After going to bed, about to fall asleep, Isaiah 29:1 flashed into my mind. What's amazing is that I had never memorized that Scripture! It reveals that Ariel is a nickname for JERUSALEM! I now understand why God the Father had chosen Ariel for me. Anyone who knows me knows that Jerusalem is always on my mind (Jer. 51:50), especially after my first visit there to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in 1980. God has shown me that He's stirred me up and given me a burning desire for Jerusalem and Israel (Isa. 62:1, 6-7). I finally realized that God was calling me a "SON OF JERUSALEM."
I got out of bed, got down on my knees with tears in my eyes, and thanked God for truly knowing us inside and out, just like His Word says, and embraced the new name God had given me! I also accepted it as a SPIRITUAL GOAL: to live worthy of one named after holy Jerusalem and all that it ideally represents.
I end my prayers facing Jerusalem every night with "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" (Jerusalem of Gold), a plea for Jerusalem to fulfill its calling (2 Chron. 6:38-39; Dan. 6:10). Later, I began to understand how Ariel can also refer to Judah and King David. Since my family tree is traced back to the British and Scottish Royal Families (the Royal House of David) it's also befitting that Ben-Ariel can mean "son of David" and "son of Judah" (whose tribal emblem is the lion).
I'm convinced that the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, and the God of my forefather David, has blessed me with the name of Ariel. Even if I chose Ariel for myself - which I did not, I originally objected to it - there wouldn't be any harm in that since such a practice is Biblical: "One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel" (Isa. 44:5).
God surnamed me Ariel back around 1982, however it wasn't until 1989 that I finally changed my name legally. I knew that even though God had given me the name that I didn't necessarily have to change my name. I was also hesitant to do so because I am the only son and the only Hoover males alive (that I'm aware of) were my grandfather and myself. I didn't want the name to die out, not that I'm married and have any sons anyway (although God assures His "eunuchs" that we'll be given excellent and eternal names - Isa. 56:5). I began to see that Hoover was possibly an Anglicized form of the German Huber (since many immigrants changed their names upon arrival in America).
I also didn't want to hurt or offend my grandfather or possibly get disinherited, but I made up my mind that since I was about to seek citizenship in Israel, starting a new chapter in our family history, I was going to take the lead and change my name. My grandfather ended up dying about four months before the fact, unaware of what I planned to do. So now I've been David Ben-Ariel for years and my family and friends are used to it.
My God-given name is ESTABLISHED BEFORE GOD who mentions Jerusalem twice in it:
the City of David and Ariel.
About the Author
David Ben-Ariel, an American author who has travelled widely and who has lived throughout Israel, shares a special focus on the Middle East and great interest in Jerusalem, reflected in hard-hitting articles that help others improve their understanding of that troubled region. Check out www.benariel.com