& Meaning •
Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Boaz
The name Boaz occurs twice in the Bible:
Boaz is the name of the left of two pillars in Solomon's temple; the right pillar is named Jachin (1 Kings 7:21).
The most famous Boaz is the son of Rahab (probably not the Rahab of Jericho; see our article on the name Rahab), and the wealthy beaux of Ruth, eventually the father of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of King David (Ruth 2:1). Boaz and Ruth are possibly the most delightful couple in the Bible. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names notes somewhat melancholically, "By obligations of the Levitical law, Boaz became Ruth's second husband. There is great sweetness in the character of Boaz, and also of Ruth."
The law that Jones refers to is commonly known as Levirate Law (from the Latin word levir, meaning brother-in-law, or so says the Oxford Companion to the Bible), and is recorded in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. According to this law, Boaz and Ruth's first son was supposed to be named Mahlon, after Ruth's first husband (Deuteronomy 26:6; Ruth 4:10) but the neighbors call him Obed and that name sticks.
The single word does not exist in Hebrew and the name Boaz can only be a compound. Most Bible scholars go with the common Hebrew preposition (be), in, at or by; and the Hebrew verb (azaz), be strong. This verb yield derivatives (az a and oz), both meaning strength.
The name Boaz literally means By Strength, and it seems to celebrate man's personal vigor. Personal strength may truly be a gift, but it, like anything else, should not be revered too much and certainly not held responsible for anything that was achieved by God. Whether Solomon named one of his pillars after his great-great-grandfather or that this is coincidence can not be determined.
NOBS Study Bible Name List simply reads Strength. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does not ignore the letter beth and reads In Him (i.e. the Lord) Is Strength, but this connection to the Lord is somewhat forged. BDB Theological Dictionary points towards a possible etymology in an Arabic verb meaning to be quick or swift, and reads Quickness? (their question mark). But, in discussing the name of the temple pillar, also refers to the venerable Thenius who proposed He (God) Establishes In Strength, and Keil, Berthau and Öttli who suggest it to be an exclamation: In Strength!
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