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Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Ahinoam

Ahinoam Ahinoam

There are two women named Ahinoam in the Bible. One is the daughter of Ahimaaz who married king Saul and had sons named Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchi-shua, and daughters named Merab and Michal (1 Samuel 14:49-50). The other is a Jezreelite and one of first three wives of David (1 Samuel 25:43), and one of the two who were abducted from Ziglag by Amalekites (the other being Abigail). Ahinoam gives birth to David's first born son Amnon (2 Samuel 3:2), but he doesn't become crown prince as he obviously has a screw loose. He rapes his younger half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:14-20) and is subsequently put to death by order of her full brother Absalom (2 Samuel 13:19).

The name Ahinoam is member of a vast cluster of Biblical ah-names, and the ah-part is usually translated with "brother." Often that works fine but in some cases (feminine names) it doesn't. The name Ahinoam seems to be a case in which ah is unlikely to mean brother. If we consider the central yod to be possessive, the ahi-part would mean my ah. But (and now we're guessing) perhaps the ahi evolved from ahu (ahu), meaning reeds or rushes as used in Genesis 41:2 and Job 8:11.

The second part of the name Ahinoam comes from the verb naem (na'em), meaning to be pleasant or sweet. Actually, Ahinoam without the ahi-part is identical to the name Naam (Naam), meaning Pleasantness, and is closely related to the name Naomi (Naomi), meaning My Pleasantness. If we consider the central yod to be possessive in the other direction, the name Ahinoam would mean The Ah Of Pleasantness. And just as in English, the word ah occurs in the Hebrew language as an outcry, be it an outcry of grief or displeasure. This root connected to the word ahu mentioned above would render the meaning of Delightful Grass.

For a meaning of the name Ahinoam, both NOBS Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary read My Brother Is Delight. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names too derives of the verb naem but offers the rather divergent Brother Of Grace.

Other names derived of the verb na'em are Abinoam, Naamah, Naaman and Naamath(ite).



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