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Beth-le-aphrah meaning

בית לעפרה

Source: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Beth-le-aphrah.html

🔼The name Beth-le-aphrah in the Bible

The name Beth-le-aphrah occurs only once. In Micah 1:10 the prophet Micah plays with words and the names of places. He says: "At Beth-le-aphrah, roll yourself in the dust..".

🔼Etymology of the name Beth-le-aphrah

The name Beth-le-aphrah consists of three distinct elements. The first element is identical to the common Hebrew word בית (bayit) meaning house:

The second element of our name is the particle ל (le), meaning to or towards:

The third element of the name Beth-le-aphrah appears to come from the root group עפר:

In Micah 1:10, the prophet uses the verb עפר.

🔼Beth-le-aphrah meaning

For a meaning of the name Beth-le-aphrah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads House Of Dust. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) sees in the aphrah-part a personal name: Aphrah, translates the whole name with House Of Aphrah, and Aphrah specifically with Dust. BDB Theological Dictionary resolutely declares "site unknown and text dubious," but what's so dubious about this text BDB does not unveil.

But it's obvious that there are some problems with this name. The prophet Micah facetiously connects it to the word עפר ('apar), meaning dust, but that does by no means mean that it was actually derived from it.

First of all, the particle ל has a function, and that function isn't met by the translation of House Of Dust. If עפרה really means dust, then לעפרה would mean "to dust," or rather: to be turned into dust. But why would a place be known as The House That Will Be Dust? The noun עפר ('apar) means dust, but that noun is masculine. To turn that noun into a feminine one, indeed the ה is added, and our word עפרה appears. But why was that done? Why not name that town בית לעפר, so that everybody knows what one is talking about?

Perhaps our name originally had nothing to do with dust, but rather with the metal עפרת ('operet). The letters ה and ת tend to alternate for various reasons, and the House (That Strives) To Be As Lead is not a bad name for a city with certain ambitions.

Or perhaps the word עפרה has to do with the female version of עפר ('oper), assumedly meaning hind, or female deer. The (Aspiring-)Deer-like House is not a bad name for a city, and it brings to mind the sentiments so craftily reflected by the sons of Korah in Psalm 42.