🔼The name Abel-meholah: Summary
- Stream Of The Dance
- From (1) the noun אבל ('abel), stream or brook, and (2) the noun מחולה (mehola), a dancing.
🔼The name Abel-meholah in the Bible
Abel-meholah is the name of a village in Ephraim, near the Jordan river. In Judges 7:22 it serves as a marker to indicate how far the invading army of the Midianites fled for Gideon and his men and their 300 trumpets. In 1 Kings 4:12 it marks the edge of the area of responsibility if Baana, son of Ahihud, one of the twelve deputies of king Solomon.
But Abel-meholah's true claim to fame is that it is the hometown of the great prophet Elisha, the son of Shaphat (1 Kings 19:16). Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) declares that the ethnonym Meholathite describes someone from Abel-meholah but that is conjecture and not certain at all.
🔼Etymology of the name Abel-meholah
The name Abel-meholah consists of two elements. The first of which is Abel (which is not the same name as that of Abel, the younger brother of Cain), from the root-group אבל:
The verb בלל (balal) means to mix something with oil, usually flour products, usually as ritualistic food preparation. The emphasis of this verb lies on saturation and overflowing: to fill something with oil until it can absorb no more and begins to reject an excess of oil. Noun בליל (belil) describes a very rich mix for animals to eat. Noun שבלול (shabbelul) describes a snail, or an animal that looks saturated with oil. Nouns תבל (tebel) describes sexually incompatible partners, and noun תבלל (teballul) tells of insoluble material that obstructs a person's eye.
The verb יבל (yabal) speaks mostly of a flowing along some course, which of course requires the bottom of the course to be saturated and reject any further absorption. Noun יבל (yabal) means water course or conduit, noun יובל (yubal) means stream and noun אובל ('ubal) means stream or river. Adjective יבל (yabbal) means suppurating (discharging pus from a wound). Noun יבול (yebul) denotes produce from the soil and noun בול (bul) means produce or outgrowth. Noun יובל (yobel) or יבל (yobel) describes "a carrier" or "a producer" or "something that drives a flow" (e.g. a trumpet, or the principle of Jubilee). Noun תבל (tebel) refers to the whole world-economy.
Verb אבל ('abel) is like the previous ones in that it describes a drive of liquid or semi-liquid elements along some collective course. It's often used to describe a collective mourning, which either happened in a procession or else contagious enough to drag others along. Nouns אבל ('ebel) and אבל ('abel) both mean mourning, but the latter is also the word for actual water stream or brook. In cognate languages this verb is used to describe the driving of camels. There is even a sporadically used adverb אבל ('abal), which in older texts expresses solemn affirmation (verily, truly, yes indeed I'm totally going along with you there) but later texts appear to put somewhat of a breaking force on the momentum ("yes!... but").
The second part of the name Abel-meholah comes from the root group חול (hul) and is identical to the feminine noun מחולה (mehola), meaning a dancing:
- Verb חול (hul I) denotes a whirling in circular motions. It comes with quite a cluster of derivatives, most notably the noun חל (hol), meaning sand; the noun חל (hil), meaning pain so bad that it makes one writhe (specifically childbirth); the noun חל (hel), which denotes a (circular) rampart, and the nouns מחול (mahol) and מחולה (mehola), which describe (whirling) dances.
- Verb חול (hul II) means to be strong, and the important derived noun חיל (hayil) means might.
- A by-form of the previous: the verb חלם (halam I) means to be strong.
- Verb חלם (halam II) means to dream, and its derived noun חלום (halom) means a dream.
These curious parallels suggests that the Hebrews saw dreaming as something cyclic; see our full dictionary article on these words for a closer look at dreams in the Bible. Also note the similarities in form with the חלל (halal) cluster.
For a meaning of the name Abel-meholah, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names suggest Meadow Of Dancing. BDB Theological Dictionary reads Dance-Meadow. And if we would follow the insights of HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the name Abel-meholah would rather mean Stream Of The Dance.