Ishmael – means “God hears.” The character in the Bible was the outcast son of Abram. Since he says “Call me” and never gives a first or last name, this probably is not his real name. So he must have chosen this alias for a reason.
Elijah – (“The Lord is my God”) One of the major prophets of the Old Testament, Elijah prophesied againsts the evil actions of Ahab and Jezebel, just as the character warns Captain Ahab of the consequences of obsessing over Moby-Dick.
Bildad – The co-owner of the Pequod, Bildad acts uncharacteristically greedy and violent for a Quaker. This may allude to the Biblical Bildad, who was the consoler/accuser of Job when he was suffering, saying that Job must have sinned in order to bring such pain upon himself.
Not all the symbolic names are Biblical. The names Stubb and Flask carry vague connotations of worldly, vulgar sailors; “Stubb” is almost like a the name of a Shakespearean clown, alluding to his jester-like character, and Flask acts almost drunk in his belligerence and lack of respect for anything.
Lastly, the name of the Spouter-Inn’s proprietor, Peter Coffin, echoes Ishmael’s “involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses” as well as foreshadows Elijah’s prophesy of two coffins, and the method by which Ishmael escapes the maelstrom of the Pequod’s sinking.
*Proof that, contrary to popular belief, I was actually paying attention in class.