🔼The name Abihail in the Bible
There are two different Hebrew names in the Bible which in translations ended up as the identical name Abihail. We'll call them Abihail I (אביחיל) and Abihail II (אביהיל).
For some obscure reason, the name Abihail I (אביחיל) is applied solely to men, whereas the name Abihail II (אביהיל) is borne only by women:
🔼The name Abihail I: Summary
- The Father Is Might, Father Of Strength
- From (1) the noun אב ('ab), father, and (2) the noun חיל (hayil), might.
🔼The name Abihail I in the Bible
The beautiful name Abihail (אביחיל, possibly pronounced with a ch-like sound, which may have made this name phonetically similar to the name Abigail) is applied to three different men in the Bible:
🔼Etymology of the name Abihail I
The name Abihail consists of two parts. The first part is the Hebrew word אב ('ab), meaning father:
The noun אב ('ab) means father, but describes primarily a social relationship rather than a biological one. That social fatherhood was the defining quality of the community's alpha male, the one around whom all economy revolved and from whom emanated all instructions by which the 'sons' (בן, ben) operated. It's unclear where this word אב ('ab) comes from but the verb abu means to decide.
The letter yod forms a possessive: my father, or father of, depending on the context.
The second part of the name Abihail comes from the Hebrew word group חול:
- 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.
🔼Abihail I meaning
The name Abihail may reflect either verb, although it's probably more likely that a Hebrew audience preferred the hail-part to mean "might" rather than "pain".
For a meaning of the name Abihail, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads The Father Is Might. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Father Of Strength.
🔼The name Abihail II: Summary
- Father Of Light, My Father Shines
- From (1) the noun אב ('ab), father, and (2) the verb הלל (halal), to shine or praise.
🔼The name Abihail II in the Bible
The women named Abihail are:
- The wife of Abishur and the mother of Ahban and Molid of the family of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:29).
- Someone associated to the wife of king Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:18).
The exact who and what of the latter is somewhat source of debate. Both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names insist that Abihail is the wife of Rehoboam, but the text seems to suggest that she is the mother of the wife, who's named Mahalath. Mahalath's father is Jerimoth, son of David, and Abihail is a descendant of Eliab, son of Jesse.
🔼Etymology of the name Abihail II
Like the other version of our name, the name Abihail II obviously also starts with אבי (aby), meaning "my father is" or "father of".
The second part of Abihail II could possibly be construed to derive of any of the verbs הלל (halal):
The verb הלל (halal) means to shine (what exited stars do) or praise and cheer (what exited souls do). It may even denote too much of a good thing: to be raving mad. From the second sense derive: noun הליל (hillul), praise or rejoicing; noun מהלל (mahalel), agent or place of praise, and noun תהלה (tehilla), song of praise. From the third sense come nouns הוללה (holela) and הוללות (holelut), both meaning madness.
🔼Abihail II meaning
For a meaning of Abihail II, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Father Of Light. NOBSE Study Bible Name List conveniently makes no distinction between the two names.