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NAMES, PROPER. Proper names as opposed to appellative or common names, consist of one element (word) or more and refer to three main categories: place names, personal names and divine names. This article will deal extensively only with the first two categories.
The history of Biblical onomatology
It will be of some major significance to see how this subject is just beginning to unfold in the latter part of the 20th cent. as the epigraphical materials uncovered by the archeologists now place in our hands a wealth of comparative materials unknown even to those living as far back in time as the centuries just before the Christian era.
Neither the unscientific etymologies of Plato and Aristotle or the more systematic, but nevertheless speculative word-plays of Philo provide a solid base for our studies. They were effective in setting the tone for some fifteen centuries, as witnessed by the several Gr. onomastica, Jerome’s Lat. Onomasticon, and those produced by the Syrians. The Stoics, led by Zeno and Chrysippus, developed a whole doctrine of speech, but still included etymologizing as the means of unfolding the moral, religious and metaphysical truth in words. With the advent of scientific lexicography and grammar and comparative Semitics, major contributions to the subject began to appear under the names of M. Hiller (Onomasticum Sacrum, c. 1000 pp. ); Simonis (Onomasticum ); W. Gesenius (Thesaurus [1829-1842]); E. Nestle (Die israelitischen Eigennamen ); B. Gray (Studies in Hebrew); M. von Grunwald (Die Eigennamen des A.T. in ihrer Bedeutung für die Kenntnis des hebräischen Volksglaubens ); G. Kerber (Die religionsgechichliche Beudeutung der hebräischen Eigennamen des A. T. ); Fr. Ulmers (Die semitischen Eigennamenin A. T. ); Th. Nöledeke (“Names,” Encyclopedia Biblica ); M. Lidzbarski (“Semitische Kosenamen,” Ephemeris für semitische Epigraphik, II , 1-23) and M. Noth (Die israelitschen Personnamen im Rahmen der gemeinsemitischen Namengebung ).
While these studies have given great insight into Heb. onomatology, they lacked some of the necessary controls, viz. the comparisons that could be made with other Sem. languages. This gap is now being filled by the following publications, Ugaritic: Roy Uyechi (A Study of Ugaritic Alphabetic Personal Names, unpublished doctoral dissertation ); C. H. Gordon (Ugaritic Textbook , 61-65; 508-522); F. Gröndahl (Die Personennamen der texte aus Ugarit ); Phoenician: N. Joseph Kikuchi; Amorite: T. Bauer (Die Ostkanaanäern ); Herbert B. Huffmon (Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts ); Assyrian: Knut L. Tallquist (Assyrian Personal Names ); Johann J. Stamm (Die akkadische Namengebung ); Gelb, Ignace J. Purves, Pierre M. and MacRae, Allan A. (Nuzi Personal Names ); Babylonian: H. Ranke (Early Babylonian Personal Names ); K. L. Tallquist (Neubabylonisches Namenbuch ); Egyptian: H. Ranke (Die ägyptische Personennamen, I-II [1935f.]); Palmyrene: W. Goldman (Die palmyrenischen Personeninamen ); S Arab.; G. Ryckmans (les Noms propres sud-semitiques, I-III [1934, 1935]); Horite: Feiler (“Hurritische Eigennamen im Alten testament,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie ); Cappadocia: Ferris J. Stephens (Personal names from Cuneiform Inscriptions of Cappadocia ); and Greek: Fritz Bechtel and A. Fick (Die griechischen Personennamen ). Added to these lists are Jewish names recorded in the 5th cent. b.c. Elephantine Aram. papyri; the Lachish letters and the Samaritan Ostraca.
The structure of names
Most scholars classify Heb. names according to their formation: (1) simple and (2) compound.
The most common names in the OT consist of more than one element, i.e., two or more independent words. The relationship between these words may be: (1) two substantives functioning as nominative and genitive, the so-called construct state and (2) a complete sentence. In the construct bond, often the first element ends in “i.” This usually is regarded as a survival of the old case ending system, but occasionally it does indicate the presence of the first person sing. suffix, “my.” Infrequently, a preposition may appear before this noun in the construct, e.g., Bezaleel, “in the shadow of God.”
Sentence names are common in the Sem. languages and Heb. has its share of them. The names of Isaiah’s children (Shear-jashub, “the remnant shall return,” Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “plunder has hastened, spoil has sped”) and Hosea’s children (Lo-ruhamah, “she has found no mercy,” Lo-ammi, “he is not my people”) come to mind. The name Hephzibah, “I have no pleasure in her” (
These names consist of one element and may therefore be an adjective, or abbreviation of a compound name with the divine element omitted in some instances or the noun of kinship in other cases, or a third person sing. of a verb like Nathan, “He has given.” Sometimes one element simply is replaced by an ending on the remaining element and these abbreviated and apocopated forms then become simple names.
The names of persons
There are about 1400 names representing some 2400 individuals in the OT. The Hebrews were a mononymous people; that is, each child received only one name at birth without a family name or middle name. If a distinction were necessary, the individual could be identified easily by adding the name of his father and any other ancestor’s name in ascending order as these occasions required.
These names are the most difficult, since there is only one element and it is generally some being, object, description or circumstance known in this cryptic form by the contemporaries but not as easily known to us.
There are three groups of nature names: (1) animal, (2) plant, and (3) meteorological. The first group is represented by twenty-two pre-exilic southern names of which some of the better known are: Deborah, (bee), Rachel (ewe), Caleb (dog), Huldah (weasel), Achbor (mouse), Shaphan (rock badger), Jonah (dove), and Tola (worm). In addition to these examples of Heb. animal names, there are eleven foreign names in the OT of this type including: Zeeb (wolf), Eglah (calf), Oreb (raven), Hamor (ass), Jael (mountain goat), Nahash (serpent), Epher (young gazelle) and Zipporah (lady bird). Plant names, however, are rarer. Illustrations of this class are Tamar (date palm tree), Hadassah (myrtle), Elon (oak), Zethan (olive), Rimmon (pomegranate), and NT and Apoc. Susanna (lily).
While one cannot dogmatically affirm just what the intention was in every case, it is possible to parallel these names with a plethora of animal and plant names from other lists of names in the Near E. of high antiquity. It must be said that a theory, equally as justifiable as the totem theory for which there is some support, is the idea of endearment and tenderness as the reason for using these names; this might be esp. true where small animals, albeit unclean ones, are used for names!
Some meteorological names are Barak (lightning), Samson (little sun), and Nogah (sunrise). This class may be wholly derived from pagan theophorics or slight modifications thereof.
These few names seem to divide easily into four categories: (1) color, (2) size, (3) defects and (4) sex. Some examples are: Laban and Libni (white), Zohar (reddish white), Haruz (yellow), Edom (red), Phinehas (bronze-colored Nubian), Hakkatan (small one), Korah and Kareah (baldy), Heresh (dumb), Ikkesh (crooked), Gareb (scabby), Gideon (maimed), Paseah (halting), and Geber (male).
Circumstances at birth.
Often the name indicates something about (1) the time of birth, (2) the place of birth, (3) order of birth, and (4) the events at birth. Some examples are: Haggai and Haggith (festal, i.e., born at feast time), Shabbethai (Sabbatical; i.e., born on the Sabbath), Judith and Jehudi (Jewess or Jew perhaps originally of Judah?), Cushi (Ethiopian), Becher or Bechor (first-born), Yathom and Yathomah (fatherless, orphan), Azubah (forsaken, perhaps by mother at birth?) and Thomas (twin).
There are a few additional simple names which refer either to the qualities of the person, such as Nabal (fool) and Naomi (perhaps pleasant), or to various objects like Peninnah (corals), Rebecca (cord for tying sheep), Rizpah (pavement), Bakbuk (pitcher) and Achsah (anklet). Other names in this category are: active or passive participles: Saul (asked), Baruch (blessed), Menahem (comforting); names ending in the diminutive -on, -an, -om, or -am: Nahshon (small serpent), Samson (small sun), names ending in -ai or -i for possession or gentilics, or abbreviation: Mordecai (votary of Marduk), Omri; and those ending in -a: Gera (guest).
This class of names by far exceeds the former class. Especially numerous are the theophorous names, i.e., names which explicitly mention Deity.
Generally these names are sentence names formed with the divine name of El or Yahweh. The sentence may appear with a nominal predicate indicating assurance or confidence: Joel (Yahweh is God) or a verbal predicate, e.g., one in the perfect tense expressing thanksgiving: Jonathan (Yahweh has given). Since the subject may come at the beginning or the end, e.g., Nathaniel and Elnathan, often it is difficult to decide which is the subject and predicate; this is esp. true when the MT pointing may be in question on a particular name. Some verbs are in the imperfect tense or the jussive, and thereby express a wish or desire: Jehoiachim (may Yahweh establish). Some authorities even claim to find an imperative form of the verb in these names: Hoshea (save!) but this is by no means clear.
The greatest number of these compounds contain the element for Yahweh either at the beginning or end of the name. It appears as Jeho- or Jo- in the first position and -yahu (-iah) or -yah (-jah) in the second position. G. B. Gray has counted 156 different names of over 500 persons in the OT with this divine name (HPN, 149). The Elephantine papyri give evidence of this same high frequency with as many as 170 Jews bearing a Yahweh compound name.
Ranking second in the number of occurrences is the El compound name. The OT has, according to G. B. Gray, 135 names compounded with a form of El of which 113 are Heb. personal (or tribal) names (HPN, 163-165).
The meanings found in these theophorous names cover almost the complete range of God’s being, person, gifts, and works for man. T. Nöldeke in his monumental article on “Names” in Encyclopedia Biblia arranges these meanings according to the following groupings: God’s sovereignty: He is just, rules, judges, is possessor, and the Lord; God’s gifts: He gives, increases, opens the womb, and gives freely; God’s graciousness: He blesses, has mercy, loves, helps, saves, is good, confers benefits, and is with man; God’s creating ability: He makes, builds, sets up, establishes, accomplishes; God’s knowledge: He remembers, knows, weighs, and sees; God’s salvation: He delivers, comforts, heals, redeems, preserves, keeps in safety, and conceals; God’s power: He holds fast, is strong, is a refuge, and strengthens; God’s immanence: He hears, answers, speaks, swears, promises; and God’s being and attributes: He is great, perfect, high, glorious, lives, is incomparable, dwells, comes, passes by, meets, contents, shoots, thunders, rises, is glad, is light, is fire. This is just a sample of the many roots and ideas.
The compounds denoting kinship are Ab(i) = father, Ah(i) = brother, ’Am(mi) = kinsman, ben = son, and bath = daughter. The most important are the first two: the element Ab(i) appears in thirty-one names of which three are foreign names, four are family names and the remaining twenty-four represent forty-one individuals (HPN, 26). Ah(i) appears in twenty-six names of which five are either foreign or family names and twenty-one represent thirty-three Israelites (HPN, 37). The other names are even less frequent and represent about a dozen examples each. Examples of these forms are: Abihud, Ahihud, Amminadab, Benjamin and Bathsheba.
These names include nouns designating the sovereignty of the one mentioned in the name and are therefore of great value in determining the religious character of Israel in the various periods of history. They embrace the name Melech = king; Adoni=Lord; and Baal=owner, e.g., Abimelech, Adoniram, and Jerubbaal. These forms are very frequent in other Sem. languages, esp. in Phoenician and Punic, but the OT has fourteen examples of Melech names, and even fewer examples of the other two forms: twelve Baal names of which two are an Edomite and a Phoenician, and nine Adoni names of which two are Canaanite. The reason seems obvious now in light of the comparative onomastica of Phoenicia, Ugarit and Assyria: the names were decidedly Canaanitish in their origin and formation.
Names of places
The rarity of sentence names and the obscurity of many of the pre-Israelitish place names make them much more difficult to explain. Some of these ambiguities now are being met by the onomastical lists from Egypt, but the problem often remains perplexing since many places just have a single simple name and the compound names are chiefly in a genitival relation.
Frequently a site received its name from some topographical feature for which Heb. has a rich vocabulary. These might include references to: (1) the height: Ramah, Ramoth, Rumah (height), Pisgah (height) Geba, Gibeah or Gibeon (hill), Shechem (shoulder, or ridge), and Sela (cliff); (2) the locality: Sharon (plain), Mizpah (watch tower), and Bithron (ravine); (3) the presence or absence of water: in compound names of En (spring), Beer (well), Me (water), Gihon or Giah (spring), Zion (waterless) and Abel (meadow); (4) the color and beauty of the site: Lebanon (white), Adummin (ruddy or red), Kidron (very black), Zalmon (dusky), Jarkon (yellow), Carmel (garden land), Shapir or Shepher (beautiful), and Tirzah (pleasing); (5) the condition of the soil: Argob (rich earthy soil), Arabah (desert or waste land), Bozkath (plateau of volcanic stone), and Jabesh or Horeb (dry); and (6) the size, products or industries of the place: Zoar (small), Rabbath (large), Bezer, or Bozrah (fortified place), Gath (wine press), Kir (wall), and Hazor, Kiriath, or Ir (city).
Not all of the foregoing names are absolutely certain, but these seem to be the better documented meanings.
G. B. Gray’s work on animal names still stands essentially unchanged since the beginning of this cent. He noted that out of some 100 animal names, thirty-three were the names of places, thirty-four were names of clans (only twenty-three were Heb.) and thirty-three were individuals (only twenty-two were Heb.) and the rest were foreign. Cf. HPN, 97, the largest proportion of animal names came from the S (at least forty-seven out of the sixty-seven town and tribal names) and twenty-two tribal and individual animal names came from foreigners.
Some of the thirty-three town names were: Aijalon (stag), Arad (wild ass), Beth-car (lamb), Eglon (calf), Ephron (gazelle), Engedi (spring of the kid), Laish (lion), Zeboim (hyena), Parah (cow), Hazar-susah (city of the horse), Ir Nahash (city of the serpent), Beth-hoglah (house of the partridge), Zorah (hornet), and Shaalbim (fox).
Names of plants, trees and shrubs also are found: Abel-shittim (meadow of the acacia), Beth-tappuah (house of the apple tree), Tamar or Baal-Tamar (date palm tree), Elah, Eloth, Elim, or Elon (oak or terebinth), Rimmon (pomegranate), Dilan (cucumber), Eshcol, Abel-cheramim or Beth-haccerem (vine), and Luz (almond tree).
Since this topic will be covered more in detail under each of the names, it will be included here only as a reminder of its place in this discussion and of several distinctive concerns to onomatology.
Names compounded with Shaddai appear to be limited to the three names in
The second item calling for special note in light of comparative Sem. onomatology is the Sem. feature of compound divine names. For several centuries now, Biblical scholarship has been using this double divine name as one of its chief criteria in the legitimate discipline of higher criticism. However, this may now be corrected in light of its abundant presence in documents which most certainly are unified literary productions employing the alternate names as literary relief. See a partial documentation, K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and the OT, 120-125.
See above under History of Biblical Onomatology. G. B. Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names (1896); G. B. Gray, “Name,” Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by J. Hastings (1900), III, 478-485; G. B. Gray, “Names” (Heb.), ERE, IX-X (1928), 155-162; S. Mandelkern, V. T. Concordantiae, ed. by F. Margolinii and M. Gottsteinii (1962), 1347-1532.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE FORM OF HEBREW NAMES
1. Various Types
3. Transposition of Parts
4. Methods of Abbreviation
II. THE RANGE OF PROPER NAMES
1. Personal Names
(1) Not Exclusively Descriptive
(2) Drawn from a Wide Field
(3) Influences Leading to Choice
(4) Popularity of Names: Hard to Determine
2. Geographical Names
III. CHARACTERISTICS OF BIBLICAL REFERENCES
1. Derivation of Names Manifest
2. The Narrator’s Only Concern
3. Allusions Linked with Names
I. The Form of Hebrew Names.
1. Various Types:
The Hebrew proper name consists of a single word, a phrase, or a sentence.
(1) Where the name is a single word, other than a verb, it may be
(a) a common noun, concrete, as Barak, "lightning," Tola, "crimson worm," Elon, "oak," Achsah, "anklet," Deborah, "bee" or abstract, as Uzzah, "strength," Manoah, "rest," Hannah, "grace"; or either abstract or concrete, as Zebul, "habitation";
(b) a participle, as Saul, "asked," Zeruiah, "cleft";
(c) an adjective, as Ikkesh, "perverse," Maharai, "impetuous," Shimei, "famous"; or
(d) a word that may be either an adjective or an abstract noun according to circumstances. Such are formations after the norm of qaTTul, as shammua`, which are generally adjectives; and formations by means of the ending -am or -on, as Adullam, Zalmon, Gideon, or, with the rejection of the final -n, Shilo(h) and Solomo(n).
(2) The name may be a phrase, consisting of
(a) two nouns, as Penuel, "face of God," Samuel, "name of God," Ish-bosheth, "man of shame"; or
(b) an adjective and a noun, as Jedidiah, "beloved of Yahweh" ; or
(c) a preposition and one or more nouns, as Besodeiah, "in the intimacy of Yahweh" (
When the name is a sentence, the predicate may be
(a) a noun, the copula being implied, as Abijah, "Yah is a father," Eliab, "God is a father," Elimelech, "God is king"; or
(b) an adjective, as Tobijah, "Yah is good" (
(c) a participle, as Obed-edom, "Edom is serving"; or
(d) a finite verb. This last type exhibits five or six varieties: the subject stands before a perfect, as Jonathan, "Yahweh hath given," Jehoshaphat, "Yahweh hath judged," Eleazar, "God hath helped," Elkanah, "God hath formed"; or before an imperfect, as Eliahba, "God hideth Himself"; or the subject comes after a perfect, as Benaiah, "Yahweh hath built," Shephatiah, "Yahweh hath judged," Asahel, "God hath made; or after an imperfect, as Jezreel, "God doth sow." Very often the subject is the pronoun included or implied in the verbal form, as Nathan, "he hath given," Hillel, "he hath praised," Jair, "he enlighteneth," Jephthah, "he openeth." Occasionally the predicate contains an object of the verb, as Shealtiel, "I have asked God" (
The proper name is treated as one word, whether on analysis it consists of a single word, a phrase, or a sentence; and as such it is subject to the laws of accent and quantity which govern the Hebrew word.
(1) A common noun used as a name undergoes the variations of pronunciation due to the custom of lengthening a short vowel in pause and to the laws which control the aspiration of certain labials, linguals, and palatals. Thus, the name Perez, "breach," which appears also as Pharez in the
(2) In a name consisting of a phrase the normal advance of the accent as usual causes the loss of a pretonic vowel, as is indicated by the suspended letter in Jedidiah, "beloved of Yahweh"; requires a short vowel in a closed unaccented syllable, as in Mahalal’el, "praise of God"; allows contraction, as in Beth-el, "house of God"; and occasions the return of a segholate noun to its primitive form, as in Abdiel, "servant of God," where the vowel i is an archaism which has lingered in compound names, but has generally disappeared elsewhere in speech.
(3) Names which consist of a sentence are also accented as one word, and the pronunciation is modified accordingly. The synonyms Eliam and Ammiel, "God is a kinsman," not only exhibit the common archaism in the retention of the vowel i, but the name Eliam also shows the characteristic lengthening of the vowel in the final accented syllable, so common in nouns. The four forms Eliphelet, Eliphalet, Elpelet and Elpalet, meaning "God is deliverance," represent the variations of the Hebrew due to the causes already mentioned (
3. Transposition of Parts:
When the name was a sentence in Hebrew, its constituent parts could be transposed without changing the meaning. Thus the father of Bathsheba was called Ammiel, "a kinsman is God," and Eliam, "God is a kinsman" (
Not only did transposition take place, but the substitution of a cognate root and even the use of a different part of the verb also occurred. Thus King Jehoiachin (
4. Methods of Abbreviation:
Twin forms like Abiner and Abner, Abishalom and Absalom, Elizaphan and Elzaphan, are not the full name and its abbreviation by syncopation, but are merely two variant, equally legitimate, modes of combining the constituent parts. The common methods of shortening were:
(1) contraction by the rejection of a weak consonant or the apocopation of a final unaccented vowel, notably illustrated by the divine name (c)~yeho-] at the beginning and -yahu at the end of proper names: hence, Jehoash became Joash (
(2) abbreviation of composite geographical names by the omission of the generic noun or its equivalent: Jerusalem, which to the Hebrews meant "foundation of peace," was shortened to Salem, "peace" (
II. The Range of.
1. Personal Names:
(1) Not Exclusively Descriptive.
Simonis in his Onomasticum, published in 1741, and Gesenius in his Thesaurus, issued during the years from 1835 to 1853, endeavored to interpret the proper names as though they were ordinarily intended to characterize the person who bore them. Embarrassed by theory, Gesenius translated Malchiel by "rex Dei, h. e. a Deo constitutus"; and Simonis translated Malchi-shua by "regis auxilium, i.e. auxilium s. salus regi patri praestita"; Ammizabad was rendered by Gesenius "famulus largitoris, h.e. Jehovae," and by Simonis "populum (i.e. copiosissimam liberorum turbam) donavit"; Gesenius translated Gedaliah "quem Jehova educavit vel roboravit," Zerahiah "cui Jehova ortum dedit," Jehozadak "quem Jehova justum fecit," and Joe "cui Jehova est deus, i.e. cultor Jehovae"; but Simonis rendered Joe by "Jehoua (eat) Deus .... vel (cui) Jehoua Deus (eat)." Now Malchiel means "God is king," Malchi-shua "the king, i.e. God, is salvation" (compare Joshua), Ammizabad "the Kinsman hath endowed," Gedaliah "Yah is great," Zerahiah "Yahweh hath risen in splendor," Jehozadak "Yahweh is righteous," and Joel, if a compound name, "Yah is God." A moment’s reflection makes clear that these names do not describe the persons who bear them, but in every case speak of God. They emphasize the important facts that personal names might be, and often were, memorial and doctrinal, and that personal names were a part of the ordinary speech of the people, full of meaning and intelligible to all, subject to the phonetic laws of the Hebrews, and obedient to the rules of grammar.
(2) Drawn from a Wide Field.
Parents named their children, and contemporaries dubbed people, from physical and spiritual traits, whether a beauty or a blemish; thus Hophni, "pertaining to the fist," Japhia, "gleaming," Ikkesh, "perverse," Ira, "watchful," Gareb, "rough-skinned," and Hiddai, "joyful." Children were called by the names of natural objects, as Peninnah, "coral," Rimmon, "pomegranate," Tamar, "palm tree," Nahash, "serpent," Eglah, "heifer," Aiah, "bird of prey," and Laish, "lion"; or after kinsfolk or remoter members of the clan, as Absalom’s daughter Tamar bore the name of her father’s beautiful sister, and as the priest Phinehas took his strange name from the noted Phinehas, who belonged to the same father’s house in earlier days. Or the name given to the child furnished a memorial of events in the national history, like Ichabod, "the glory is not" (
(3) Influences Leading to Choice.
The people in general gathered names for their children freely from all parts of this wide field, but in certain circles influences were at work which tended to restrict the choice to a smaller area. These influences were religious:
(a) In homes of piety conscious nearness to God on the part of the parents naturally prompted them to bestow religious names upon their children. The name may be without distinct religious mark in its form and meaning, as Ephraim, "double fruitfulness," Manasseh, "making to forget," and yet have been given in acknowledgment of God’s grace and be a constant reminder of His goodness (
(b) The covenant relation, which Yahweh entered into with Israel, made the name Yahweh, and that aspect of God’s character which is denoted by this name, peculiarly precious to the people of God, and thenceforth the word Yahweh became a favorite element in the personal names of the Israelites, though not, of course, to the exclusion of the great name El, "God."
(c) Among the kings in the line of David, the consciousness of their formal adoption by Yahweh to be His vicegerents on the throne of Israel (
(d) Akin to the influence exerted by the relation of the kings to the God of Israel, and manifesting almost equal power contemporaneously with it, was the influence of official connection with the sanctuary, either as priests or as subordinate ministers, and it frequently led to the choice of an ecclesiastical name containing the word God or Yahweh. During the five centuries and a half, beginning near the close of Solomon’s reign and extending to the end of Nehemiah’s administration, 22 high priests held office, so far as their names have been preserved in the records. Of these pontiffs 17 bear names which are sentences with Yahweh as subject, and another is a sentence with El as subject. The materials for investigation along this line are not complete, as they are in the case of the kings, and ratios derived from them are apt to be erroneous; but evidently the priests of Yahweh’s temple at Jerusalem not only recognized the appropriateness for themselves and their families of names possessing a general religious character, but came to favor such as expressly mentioned God, especially those which mentioned God by His name of Yahweh.
(4) Popularity of Names: Hard to Determine.
Until abundant data come to light for all periods of the history, it is precarious to attempt to determine the relative popularity of the various kinds and types of names in any one generation, or to compare period with period with respect to the use or neglect of a particular class of names. For, first, in no period are the names which have been transmitted by the Hebrew records many as compared with the thousands in use at the time; and, secondly, the records deal with the historical event which was conspicuous at the moment, and rarely mention persons other than the actors in this event.
At one time men and women from the middle class of society are asserting themselves in the national life, and the personal names current in the families of farmers, shopkeepers and soldiers obtain place in the annals; at another time, when the activities of the court are of paramount importance, it is mainly names that were current in official circles which are chronicled; at yet another period, when matters of the national worship engaged the attention of the state, ecclesiastics and laymen from pious families, whose names were quite likely to have a religious meaning, receive mention. Very few names outside of the particular circle concerned are preserved in the records. It is unwarranted, therefore, to draw inferences regarding the relative use of particular names, secular names, for instance, at different periods of the history of Israel, by comparing the number of these names found in a record of political uprisings in the army with the number of similar names in the narrative of an episode which occurred at a later date and in which only priests took part. It is comparing things that differ. It is comparing the number of certain names current in military circles with the number of the same names among ecclesiastics, in order to learn whether these names were more common among the people as a whole in the one period than in the other.
2. Geographical Names:
III. Characteristics of Biblical References.
1. Derivation of Names Manifest:
As a rule, Semitic words clearly reveal their origin and structure. The Semite might, indeed, err with respect to the particular meaning intended, where a word was current in several significations. Thus, the vale of bakha’, mentioned in
2. The Narrator’s Only Concern:
3. Allusions Linked with Names:
Allusions to proper names are made for the purpose of stating the reason for the bestowal of the name, of pointing out a coincidence between the name and the character or experience of its bearer, or of attaching a prophecy; and it is common to link the allusion with the name by employing the root that underlies the name, or a cognate
root, or some other word that resembles the name in sound:
(1) Statement of the reason for the choice of the name: In the case of Simeon, the root of the name is used (
In the case of Cain a cognate root is used. The name is a segholate noun from the root qun, which means "to form," and then specifically to form at the anvil. Cain may accordingly be an abstract noun and denote formation, or a concrete noun denoting a forged weapon, or the agent in the work, namely a smith. In stating the reason for giving this name to the child, it was not feasible to use the verb qun, because of the technical meaning which had become attached to it. To avoid misunderstanding the cognate verb qanah is employed, which has radically the same significance, but is without the technical implications (
In the case of Noah a root unrelated to the name in origin, but containing a similar sound, is used. The Biblical narrator does not state whether the name Noah is the transliteration of a foreign word or is its translation into Hebrew; he merely declares that as given it expressed the father’s hope that through this child men were to have relief from the ancient curse upon the ground. If the name is Hebrew, its root may be nuach, "rest." At any rate it promptly suggested to the ear of the Hebrew the idea of rest. But the verb nuach, is used in Hebrew, as is the corresponding verb "rest" in English, to express the two ideas of relief and cessation. Lamech did not mean that his son would cause men to cease from work, but that he would secure for them restful relief from toil due to God’s curse on account of sin (
(3) Attachment of a prophecy to a name: Paronomasia in all of its forms is used for this purpose. A meaning of the name, or a sound heard in it, or a contrast suggested by it may be played upon. In these several ways the prophet Micah plays upon successive names in one paragraph (
Judah is a noun corresponding to the Hophal imperfect, and means "thing being praised," "object of praise." In bestowing this name upon her child the mother signified that Yahweh was the object of her praise; for she said: "Now will I praise Yahweh" (
Da is played upon in much the same way. The name may be a participle, used as a noun, and be rendered "judge"; but it probably belongs to that numerous class in which the names are verbs in the perfect, and signifies, "he hath judged." His adoptive mother had called his name Dan, because God had heard her complaint and decided the cause in her favor (
See also GOD, NAMES OF; NAME.
John D. Davis