🔼The name Ehud in the Bible
There are two different Hebrew names in the Bible that both made it into translations as Ehud. We'll call them Ehud I (אהוד) and Ehud II (אחוד):
🔼The name Ehud I in the Bible
It's not clear how many men named Ehud — spelled with the letter ה (he) — there are in the Bible, but it's either one or two. Both Ehuds mentioned are descendants of Benjamin, son of Jacob and Rachel, but the genealogy of Benjamin is notoriously messy (for what reason we don't know; some say the scribes messed up, others say the scribes did something brilliant which we don't understand), and they may be the same man. In 1 Chronicles 7:6, Benjamin is explicitly said to have had three sons, namely Bela, Becher and Jediael, and Ehud is mentioned as a son of Jediael (7:10). Genesis 46:21 tells us that Benjamin brought fourteen of his descendants into Goshen; Bela and Becher are mentioned but no Jediael, and one of the fourteen is named Gera. In Judges 3:15-30 we read all about judge Ehud, who was a son of this or some other Benjaminite Gera (Judges 3:15).
The Hebrew scribes obviously dealt with these genealogies different than we would, but to speak of errors is misguided. Not a single stroke of the pen was put in the text without a very good reason. It's possible that after the decimation of Benjamin due to the atrocities committed in Gibeah (Judges 20:48), some of the families of this tribe realized that there were too few of them left standing to form a proper clan, and joined with other families to form an artificial clan which they named Jediael (means Known By God). This is not unthinkable; the ethnonym American, for instance, also refers to an artificially created people (and it referred solely to natives up to the 1740s). It's perfectly possible that around the time Chronicles was written, the name Jediael was the collective label of Benjaminites who didn't descend from Bela or Becher. The genealogy of 1 Chronicles 7:6-12 could thus reflect the contemporary political structure of Benjamin, whereas the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 8 (which contains the name Ehud II) might reflect the geographic dispersal of the tribe of Benjamin. But all this is mere postulate.
Whoever's son he was, the left-handed judge Ehud impressed friend and foe by sneaking into the haunt of king Eglon of Moab and stabbing his two-edged sword into his fat belly (Judges 3:21). The sword came out the other end, and so did Eglon's feces, and the smell this caused prompted his servants to figure he was taking a dump (Judges 3:24). Ehud escaped to Seirah, where he mustered an army and went to war with the Moabites. Israel defeated Moab and the land was peaceful for the next eight years (Judges 3:30).
🔼Etymology of the name Ehud I
It's ultimately unclear where this name Ehud I (אהוד) comes from. Most scholars appear to assume that it was derived from a root אהד ('hd), but there is no trace of this root in the Bible, other than perhaps this name Ehud and the evenly mysterious name Ohad (אהד). This root אהד ('hd) is then said to be identical to the root אחד ('hd; see below), from whence comes the word אחד ('ehad), meaning one. But it's very rare for the letters ה and ח to alternate, and even though they may look as much alike as do our letters O and Q or even D in some fonts, they are really quite different letters.
Here at Abarim Publications we like to pursue a different avenue of derivation. The word אחד ('ehad), meaning one, is obviously linkable to the verb יחד (yahad), meaning to be united or join, and it's reasonable to propose that the name Ehud I (אהוד) may in the same fashion be linkable to יהד (yhd), which is a verb meaning to become a Jew or Judahite, and which in turn comes from the verb ידה (yada), meaning to confess, praise or give thanks:
The prefixed letter א may be due to a cohortative form, or as David sings in Psalm 28:7, "With my song, I shall thank Him (אהודנו)".
🔼Ehud I meaning
Most translators won't acknowledge a difference between Ehud I and Ehud II and translate both with something like Joined. Here at Abarim Publications we think that the name Ehud expresses the verb ידה (yada) and means I Shall Praise.
🔼The name Ehud II in the Bible
The name Ehud II (אחוד) occurs only once in the Bible. In 1 Chronicles 8:6-7 we read how the "sons of Ehud" — namely Naaman, Ahijah and Gera, the heads-of-household of Benjaminite families living in Geba (or Gibeah) — were carried off into exile to Manahath. Where this Manahath might have been is unknown, but the three "sons of Ehud" were probably not human individuals the way we know it, but rather the sub-tribes of the Naamanites (Numbers 26:40), the Ahohites (2 Samuel 23:9, 23:28) and the Geraites (who aren't mentioned as such but came presumable from the Gera mentioned in 8:3). The name Geba belonged to a city with pasture lands (Joshua 21:17).
🔼Etymology of the name Ehud II
The name Ehud II (אחוד) is plausibly connected to either the word אחד ('ehad), meaning one or oneness, or else the verb יחד (yahad), meaning to be united or join:
🔼Ehud II meaning
For a meaning of the name Ehud II, both BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List read Union. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Joining Together.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that Ehud was not a human individual in the modern sense of the word but rather that the "sons of Ehud" referred to a federation of some sort, possibly a military or political entity but perhaps a theological branch. Religious expressions were as diverse back then as they are now, and the "sons of Ehud" may very well have been people who were part of a fellowship that commemorated the Oneness of YHWH (Deuteronomy 6:4).