The name Ariel in the Bible
There is certainly one person in the Bible named Ariel and that is one among the leaders who are sent to Iddo by Ezra, to ask for temple ministers (8:16-17). Some translations mention an Ariel in either 2 Samuel 23:20 or 1 Chronicles 11:22 but that is dubious (see below). In Isaiah 29:1-8 the name Ariel is applied to Jerusalem.
Etymology of the name Ariel
The name Ariel consists of two parts. The first part comes from the Hebrew noun ארי ('ari), meaning lion or gatherer of food from the verb ארה (arah), to collect, to gather food:
For a meaning of the name Ariel, both Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names propose Lion Of God.
The occurrence of the name Ariel or word ari'el found in 1 Chronicles 11:22 is subject to some debate. Most translations go with a translation of the word in stead of a transliteration of the name:
- Green, KJV: two lion-like men of Moab.
- Schlachter: beiden Gotteslowen Moabs.
- NBG twee grote helden [=great heroes] van Moab.
- NAS: two sons of Ariel of Moab, with 'two lion-like heroes' in a footnote).
The reason for all this is an exact parallel in 2 Samuel 23:20, except that the familiar word אריאל (ariel) is now spelled without the yod: אראל (arel).
This Hebrew word אראל (arel) returns in Isaiah 33:7 only, where it is commonly translated with heroes or variants thereof:
- NAS: brave men.
- KJV: valiant ones.
- Green: heroes
- Schlachter: Helden
- SVV: allersterksten [=most strong ones]
- NBG: herauten [=heralds]).
The name Ariel with which Isaiah endows Jerusalem in 29:1-8 may mean Lion of God, but it may also mean something more gruesome. Some linguists have derived this instance of the name Ariel from the word אראיל, altar or alter-hearth, which is used by Ezekiel in 45:15-16 (who in turn also uses a unique variant הראל once in v 15). It is said that the word אראיל is a noun derived from an assumed Hebrew verb ארה (arah), which via-via may be related to an Arabic verb to burn. The post-fixed letter lamed is blamed on a so-called afformative, although it is not clear what exactly it forms.
Something that none of the sources mentions is that the Hebrew verb ארה (arah), to collect or gather, specifically of food, is readily applied to an incinerator of sorts; there is no need for an additional verb that means to burn. The relationship between the ariel of Isaiah 29 and Ezekiel 43 suggests the nature of the woe that would strike Jerusalem, as HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament attests, "Israel shall become, under the judgment of God, an Ariel, an altar hearth, that is, the scene of a holocaust."