I suppose most of us know that, but we still miss a lot when we don't stop to ponder the meaning of Bible names. Take the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
Too many people are so busy trying to make Joseph into the first coming of the Messiah that they won't let him be what he was: a slightly spoiled, rich teenager who was probably scared to death when his brothers sold him. Still though, I am sure he had hope. He was, after all, a rich man's son. And his favorite son at that. "Surely Daddy will come get me," he must have thought, looking down the dusty road day after day as he literally slaved away.
But even Joseph, after 13 years, gave up hope. He had no idea his father thought he was dead. So when Pharaoh rewards him with position, wealth, and a wife, at the birth of his first son, what does he name him? "Manasseh." So? You ask. Manasseh means "to cause to forget." "For God has made me forget…all my father's house" Gen 41:51
Joseph gave up on a family he thought had thrown him away. As second in the kingdom, he could easily have made the trip east to visit his family, but he never did. When his brothers showed up, everything he did was to bring Benjamin, his only full brother and the only brother who did not somehow hurt him, down to Egypt to live with him. He didn't know until he overheard the brothers talking that his father thought he was dead and that they were penitent of their horrible deed. That is when he turned away from them and wept. This is the human Joseph and you can understand exactly how he felt.
But you can also learn this lesson. He may have given up on his family, but he never gave up on God. How easy would it have been to deny God because of all the hardship he endured, to enjoy the sin so extravagantly set before him by a promiscuous Egyptian woman, and to have curried favor among the pagans? But he never gave up on God. He never blamed God for his troubles. Instead he continued serving to the best of his ability in whatever state he found himself.
Knowing the meaning of a name and allowing it to help you recognize a mindset can give you real encouragement, far more than ignoring the names and setting Joseph up on a pedestal from which he never had a negative thought or motive can. These are real people God gave us as examples, not super-heroes. They had real feelings and real motivations. If Joseph can stay faithful, so can we.
The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Gen 41:52)