Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
There are four distinct groups of words in the Bible that all have to do with the base-form צלל (sll). Languages that are cognates of Hebrew show these same four groups, and that leads scholars to believe that there are four distinct roots צלל (sll), that accidentally evolved into the same shape. Whether this is true or not can't be established with any certainty, but what is sure is that the poetic writers of the Bible realized that these four groups of words are visually alike, and somewhat in meaning as well:
The verb צלל (salal I), means to tingle, quiver or ring like a bell. This verb occurs about half a dozen times in the Bible (Jeremiah 19:3, Habakkuk 3:16). Its derivatives are:
- The masculine noun צלצל (silsal), meaning a whirring or buzzing (Isaiah 18:1 only).
- The exact same noun צלצל (silsal), meaning fish-spear or harpoon. This noun also occurs once: Job 41:7.
- The masculine noun צלצל (selasal), denoting a whirring locust. This noun is spelled the same as the previous two but pronounced slightly different. It too occurs just once: Deuteronomy 28:42.
- The masculine plural noun צלצלים (selselim), denoting a musical percussion instrument; cymbals (2 Samuel 6:5, 1 Chronicles 13:8 and Psalm 150:4). This noun looks like any of the previous in plural.
- The feminine dual noun מצלתים (mesiltayim), which is the more common word for cymbals (1 Chronicles 15:19, Ezra 3:10).
- The feminine noun מצלה (mesilla), meaning bell. This word occurs only in plural, in Zechariah 14:20.
The verb צלל (salal II), means to sink or submerge and occurs only once; in Exodus 15:10.
The verb צלל (salal III) means to be or grow dark. This verb occurs twice: Nehemiah 3:19 and Ezekiel 31:3. This verb's derivatives are:
- The common, masculine, noun צל (sel) meaning shade or shadow. This noun occurs frequently in the Bible (Judges 9:15, Jeremiah 6:4, Jonah 4:5). This noun is frequently employed to describe the transitoriness of life (Job 8:9, 17:7, Psalm 144:3, 102:12).
- The masculine noun צלמות (salmawet), which is a combination of our word צל (sel) meaning shade or shadow, and the very common word מות (mawet), meaning death or the realm of death. Our noun צלמות (salmawet) literally means the shadow of death, and denotes a distressful and deep darkness (Amos 5:8, Jeremiah 13:16, Job 10:21).
Root צלל (sll IV) is the unused and assumed root of the noun צלול (slwl), which describes the killer cake of Judges 7:13. This killer cake may indeed have been so unique that it was named from an otherwise unused verb. But it may very well have made lots of noise as to be named after צלל (salal I), or be so big that it eclipsed the sun and be named after צלל (salal III).