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Meaning and etymology of the name Bezalel

Bezalel Bezalel

There are two Bezelels mentioned in the Bible. One is among those who divorced their foreign wives (Ezra 10:30), the other Bezalel is the artist who was chosen (actually: called by name) by God to create much of the tabernacle. He is teamed up with Oholiab (Exodus 31:2, 6).

Traditionally, this name is derived from the following:

a) The common Hebrew particle be (be), in, at or by.

b) The not so positive Hebrew root salal (sll I, II, III & IV). HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives it four separate meanings:

  1) salal (salal I), tingle quiver. The derivatives of this root cover a whirring or buzzing and things that whirr: silsal (silsal), spear, locusts, and things that ring: (bells, cymbals).

2) salal (salal II), sink submerge. Exodus 15:10 only.

3) salal (salal III) be or grow dark (Nehemiah 3:19). Derivative sel (sel) means shadow.

4) salal (sll IV) is the assumed root of slwl (slwl); the killer cake of Judge 7:13.

c) The word el (El), the common abbreviation of the word Elohim, the genus God.

This way the whole name may mean any combination of the above, but favored is In The Shadow Of God, which is then explained to mean In The Protection Of God. This explanation coincides marvelously with the name of Bezalel's colleague Oholiab, whose name has a secondary meaning of Father's Shine.

The fun, however, continues:

The fragment bsl (basal) means to strip off and yields the identical derivation onion! Hence the name Bezalel also means Onion Of God. Another name derived from the verb basal is Bazluth.

And if that wasn't enough, the fragment bos (bos) means mire, as used in Jeremiah 38:22. Hence, combined with the particle le (le), meaning to or towards, the name means Swamp To The Lord.

BDB Theological Dictionary, NOBS Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names all render the name Bezalel: In The Shadow (Protection) of El / God.

Other names derived from the verb salal are Hazelelponi, Zillah and Zillethai.

Other names that (may) have to do with darkness: Cush, Ephah, Kedar, Kidron, Lilith, Orpah, Sharon, Zillah.



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