The name Ebal in the Bible
There are three Ebals in the Bible; two men and a mountain:
- The first Ebal is a son of Joktan (Genesis 10:28, spelled עובל), and Joktan was a brother of Peleg, who became the ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 11:10-26).
- The second Ebal is a son of Shobal a son of Seir (Genesis 36:23).
- And then there is a hill named Ebal in Canaan (Deuteronomy 11:29, Joshua 8:30). At some point in one of his sermons, Moses predicts that when Israel moves into Canaan, Mount Gerizim will be blessed but Mount Ebal will be cursed (Deuteronomy 11:29). Moses doesn't explain why that would be. Many years later, Joshua sacks Ai (which name is possibly related to the name Ebal) and to commemorate that, he builds an altar to YHWH on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30). The Israelites present themselves, and half of them stand in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal (v33).
Etymology of the name Ebal
The name Ebal may be related to the unused root עבל ('bl) of which the meaning is lost. The Arabic equivalent, however, means bulky or stout, says BDB Theological Dictionary.
Alfred Jones (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) thinks that the name Ebal consists of two elements. The first element, according to Jones, is the noun עי ('y), meaning ruin or heap of ruins, from the root עוה ('awa), meaning to bend or twist:
The second element of the name Ebal, according to Jones, comes from the root-verb בלה (bala), meaning become old, worn out:
For a meaning of the name Ebal, Alfred Jones reads Stone, Stony, Heap of Barrenness. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes a comparison with בל, Bel, the name of a Babylonian god (Jeremiah 51:44) but gives no interpretation of Ebal (which would be something like Bel Is Ruin). NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads To Be Bare, Stony.