🔼The name Elihu in the Bible
Names that end with יה (yah) usually also exist with an ending of יהו (yahu), but for some obscure reason these yahu-variants are commonly ignored in the English speaking world (which is why we read of Zechariah and not Zechariahu, even when the Hebrew text says so). But for some other obscure reason, English translations have no problem with the name Elihu (אליהו), which is really the name Elijah (אליה) but with the dreaded yahu-ending.
Perhaps this distinction exists because the name Elihu also exists with an additional א (aleph), and this name may not be אל plus יהו, but rather אלי plus הוא, where הוא is a personal pronoun.
Whatever the reason, there are five men named Elihu (spelled אליהו, unless otherwise mentioned) in the Bible:
- A son of Tohu and great-grandfather of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1). This Elihu is spelled אליהוא, and may be the same as Eliel son of Toah mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:34.
- One of the Manassite defectors who joined David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:20).
- One of the sons of Shemaiah, son of Obed-edom the gatekeeper (1 Chronicles 26:7).
- One of the brothers of king David, who was appointed leader over the tribe of Judah (1 Chronicles 27:18).
- A son of Barachel and the youngest of the four friends of Job. This name is written as אליהו in Job 32:4 and 35:1, but as אליהוא in Job 32:2-6, 34:1 and 36:1. Since the Book of Job is probably an ancient study that compared the five dominant theologies of the Levant during patriarchal times, Elihu, son of Barachel, may have represented the indigenous El-cult of Canaan.
🔼Etymology of the name Elihu
The name Elihu consists of two elements. The first part of our name is אל, which is probably El, the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
The second part of our name could be:
- יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
- The third person independent personal pronoun: he, which is normally spelled as הוא. The י (yod) in the middle could then be construed as indicative of the possessive form (my EL).
For a meaning of the name Elihu, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary take the ending to be the pronoun and read He Is My God. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) thinks the ending is a remnant of יהוה and proposes God The Lord.