🔼The name Elul: Summary
- Futility, Chaff
- Gleaning, Evaluation, Assessment
- From an Akkadian noun meaning harvest.
- From the Hebrew verb אלל ('alal), to protrude, or its noun אלול ('elul), worthlessness..
- From the Aramaic verb אלל ('alal), to encircle or search out, corresponding to the Hebrew verb עלל ('alal), to glean.
🔼The name Elul in the Bible
The name Elul belongs to the sixth month of the agricultural year (corresponding to our August-September) and it occurs in the Bible only in Nehemiah 6:15.
See for the names of the other months our article on the Mysterious Hebrew Calendar.
🔼Etymology of the name Elul
The name Elul comes from an Babylonian original, ululu, which appears to be based on an Akkadian word for harvest. The Hebrew scholars who transliterated this name, however, gave it a striking resemblance to the verb אלל ('alal), to protrude, and more specifically the identical noun אלול ('elul), translated as futility (NAS) or a thing of nought (KJV), as used in Jeremiah 14:14. Perhaps both this name and this noun reminded the Jews of the act of threshing or winnowing, when the edible and useful was separated from chaff, the proverbial worthless bits of plant that surrounds grain and such.
The root אלל ('alal) predominantly describes a protruding or sticking out. This may be positive (when one leads a collective), neutral (when one is a tree), or negative (when one fails convention). The latter sense in particular describes foolishness, or at least a failure to live up to cognitive standards or common codes of conduct.
Nouns אלון ('allon), אלה ('alla) and אלה ('elah) refer to oaks or terebinths but note the similarities with the demonstrative pronoun אלה ('elleh), "these," and אלה ('eloah) meaning god or God.
Nouns אליל ('elil) and אלול ('elul) mean worthlessness or a worthless thing (a thing that sticks out of the economy of useful things). Adjectives אויל ('ewil) and אולי ('ewili) mean foolish, and noun אולת ('iwwelet) means foolishness or folly. Noun אול ('ul) may mean belly or leading man.
Nouns אולם ('ulam) and אילם ('elam) mean porch. The former is identical to an adverb that means "however" or "but." Another adverb אולי ('ulay) means "perhaps."
Noun איל ('ayil), "protruder," refers in the Bible to a ram, a pillar, a chief and, yet again, a terebinth. Noun איל ('ayyal) means stag or deer — hence the panting deer of Psalm 42 also describes an ignoramus longing for instruction — and its feminine counterpart אילה ('ayyala) means doe.
The verb יאל (ya'al) means to be foolish, gullible or even simply compliant and pleased to go along in no particularly negative way.
When the Jews began to speak Aramaic, the Aramaic form אלל began to be used similarly to the Hebrew form עלל ('alal), meaning to glean:
Root עלל ('alal) describes to go up, or to make to go up.
Verb עלל ('alal I) means to repeatedly deal harshly with someone lower or weaker. Noun עוללות ('olelot) means a gleaning and the denominative verb עלל ('alal) means to glean. Nouns עלילה ('alila), עליליה ('alilya), מעלל (ma'alal) and תעלולים (ta'alulim) describe acts of wantonness or repeated self-indulgence: acts of being spoiled.
Hence noun עולל ('olel) means child and the denominative verb עלל ('alal II) means to act like a child (Isaiah 3:12). Verb עלל ('alal III) means to insert or thrust in. Noun על ('ol) means yoke, and (rather grim) noun עליל ('alil) means furnace or crucible.
Verb עול ('ul I) means to feed an infant. Noun עול ('ul) describes a suckling; a very young child. Verb עול ('ul II) means to deviate from or act unjustly (to be childish, but in an ethical sense). Nouns עול ('awel) and עולה ('awla) mean injustice, unrighteousness, and denominative verb עול ('ul) means to act wrongfully. Nouns עויל ('awil II) and עול ('awwal) mean unjust one and may simply refer to a young child.
The ubiquitous verb עלה ('ala) means to go up or ascend, and particle על ('al) denotes any kind of elevation or motion towards someone or something and is commonly translated as "on" or "upon". Noun and adjective עליון ('elyon) means high(est) or upper. Adjective עלי ('illi) means upper. Noun עליה ('aliya) refers to a roof chamber. Preposition מעל (ma'al) means upward, on top of, or above. Noun מעלה (ma'ala) refers to that what comes up, i.e. thoughts. The identical feminine noun מעלה (ma'ala) means step or stair. Noun עלה ('ola), meaning ascent or stairway and may be used to denote a whole burnt offering. Noun מעלה (ma'ala) means ascent. Noun מעל (mo'al) describes a lifting.
Noun עלה ('aleh) refers to a tree's leafage. Noun עלי ('eli) refers to a pestle or crucible. Noun תעלה (te'ala) describes a water-course and the identical noun תעלה (te'ala) means healing.
The Aramaic version also meant to circle or search out, which gave the month of Elul an association to academic diligence and repentance.
Obviously, to any society that sported a wisdom tradition based on actual and practical knowledge (such as that of the Jews) rather than inert rituals and speculation (such as that of the Greeks, Christians and other pagans), the act of repentance had little to do with any religious sentiment but rather with an investigation of why the harvest was so abundant or perhaps why it disappointed or had failed all together.
For a meaning of the name Elul, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Vine, which is a bit hard to defend. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does not treat the names of the months. BDB Theological Dictionary offers no translation but does confirm that our name is spelled and even pointed identical to the variant אלול ('elul) of the noun אליל ('elil), meaning Worthlessness.