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Abarim publications has the following definition and etymology for the Hebrew name Michael:

Meaning Who Is Like God?, What Is God Like?

Etymology From (1) מי (mi), "who?", (2) כ (ke), "like", and (3) the word אל ('el), God.

They indicate that the first word מי (mi) is an interrogative pronoun asking "who?". This then is why the name Michael is virtually always rendered as a question; "Who is like God?" However, searching through all 422 appearances of מי (mi) in the KJV reveals quite a few instances where the "who" is not a question (here are a few examples):

And other money have we brought down in our hands to buy food: we cannot tell who put our money in our sacks. - Genesis 43:22

And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. - Exodus 32:24

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. - Joshua 24:15

Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armourbearer were not there. - 1 Samuel 14:17

And one of Joab's men stood by him, and said, He that favoureth Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab. - 2 Samuel 20:11

And thou, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. - 1 Kings 1:20

But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;  - Job 11:5

Most interesting are the following instances where מי (mi) is rendered somewhat more like a declaration of being:

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. - Isaiah 40:26 

The LORD'S voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. - Micah 6:9

This line of questioning arose from this question regarding the relationship between the Christ and the archangel Michael. The question is: Is it linguistically allowable to render the name Michael as a declaration "who is like God" rather than a question "Who is like God?"?

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    @ColinFine I think you have missed the point. My understanding is that the OP is making a difference between a question, and a clause beginning with a relative pronoun. (Not an 'embedded question'.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 10, 2022 at 16:45
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    You probably won't get a satisfactory answer to your question - only opinions. However, I have always viewed it as both a statement of the unavoidable "question" (i.e. Who is like unto God?) AND a statement of the unavoidable "answer" -(i.e. "no one" is like unto God). The only exception perhaps being Jesus - but His given name was ~ Joshua. My name also happens to be Mike - BTW
    – user22542
    Commented Dec 10, 2022 at 16:47
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    @ColinFine Isaiah 40:26 and Micah 6:9 don't seem like embedded questions. Commented Dec 10, 2022 at 19:28
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    If a word can be replaced (even loosely) with the word 'that' in English then it is a relative pronoun. And comes closer to being an article (which is derived from the demonstrative pronoun).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 8:13
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    See Interrogative Particle.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 10:34

3 Answers 3

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Is it possible for the meaning of the name Michael to be rendered as a statement rather than a question?

It is absolutely possible for the meaning of the name Michael to be rendered as a statement, as opposed to a question.

Whether the pronoun "who", as in the etymology of "mi", is at its "founding" an interrogative pronoun, or a relative pronoun, is somewhat beside the point. The name, Michael, has an embedded meaning, as do all Bible names, and if it has an embedded meaning then it's more than likely a statement of fact, NOT a question. The OP, here, even alludes to such a possibility. The OP then goes on to point out instances where "mi" is rendered somewhat more like a "declaration of being".

Consequently, Michael's stated meaning, to take the etymology of Michael further, should be: "who is like God", rather than the questionable (pun intended): "Who is like God?"

Thus, The illustrated Bible Dictionary (Volume 1, page 572) states the following: "A study of the word 'name' in the Old Testament reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs."

Then, The DIVINE NAME That Will Endure Forever, WTB and T Society of Pennsylvania, states the following on page 4: The fact that God views names as important is seen in that, through an angel, he instructed the future parents of John the Baptist and Jesus as to what their sons' names should be. (Luke 1:13, 31). And at times he changed names, or he gave people additional names, to show the place they were to have in his purpose. For example, when God foretold that his servant Abram ("Father of Exaltation") would become father to many nations He changed his name to Abraham ("Father of a Multitude"). And He changed the name of Abraham's wife, Sarai ("Contentious"), to Sarah ("Princess"), since she would be the mother of Abraham's seed. _ Genesis 17:5, 15, 16; compare Genesis 32:28; 2 Samuel 12:24, 25.

Jesus, too, recognized the importance of names and he referred to Peter's name in giving him a privilege of service. (Matthew 16:16-19). Even spirit creatures have names. Two mentioned in the Bible are Gabriel and Michael. (Luke 1:26; Jude 9).

Finally, the OP states that his question arises from a CSE question, regarding the possible relationship between the Christ and the Archangel Michael. A possibility that I am familiar with, as borne out in my answer to the following Q: Why doesn't the Father know the Name which was written?

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According to the Bible History website Michael can also mean "One who is Like God." The same may be said of the Biblical names Micah and Michaiah, which end with "yah" rather than "el."

A Catholic writer disagrees:

You may occasionally see the name “Michael” translated as “One who is like God.” This is incorrect. The English words “Who is like God” could be punctuated with either a period or a question mark and change the meaning of the phrase. But this is not the case in Hebrew. The name is most definitely a question.

Some denominations believe that Michael is actually another name of Jesus, and these tend to understand the name as as statement rather than a question.

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Related is the connection between the same question and the prophet Micah, which Micah used (likely with a wink) as a sort of paronomasia in Micah 7:8:
מיכה 7:18 Hebrew OT: מִי־אֵ֣ל כָּמֹ֗וךָ, Mi el kamokah....

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    This should be a comment, not presented as an answer.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 8:03
  • @NigelJ ... Understood, and I would have preferred to have done that, however due to a quirk in how this system is set up, I'm allowed to put this as an answer but not as a comment.
    – Akradecki
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 16:30

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