Gershom meaning | Gershom etymology

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Gershom in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Gershom in the Bible

There are four Gershoms mentioned in the Bible:

  • A son of Levi who is called Gershom in 1 Chronicles 6:16 is called Gershon in Genesis 46:11. He is the founder of the Gershonites, and they became a priestly sub caste in Israel (Numbers 3:21).
  • The father of a false priest in service of some Danites (Judges 18:30).
  • A man among the Babylonian returnees (Ezra 8:2).
  • The first-born son of Moses and Zipporah. His younger brother of is called Eliezer (Exodus 2:22).

Etymology and meaning of the name Gershom

When Zipporah gives birth to her first child, Moses calls him Gershom "for he said, 'I have been a גר (ger) in a foreign land.'" (Exodus 2:22).

If we assume that the author of Exodus 2:22 (Moses himself, according to tradition) wants to indicate that the name Gershom is based on the Hebrew word גר, then we should conclude that the name Gershom consists of two segments. The first segment comes from the verb גור (gur I), meaning to abide, gather, dwell, be a stranger:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The second part of the name Gershom may either be שם (sham) meaning there, or it is שם (shem), meaning name:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The name Gershom may mean Stranger There (as proposed by Alfred Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names), but it may also mean Stranger Is His Name.

On the other hand, the writer of Exodus 2:22 merely says that the boy was named such-and-such because his father was a so-and-so. There is no law that demands that the such-and-such should be etymologically akin the so-and-so. For all we know Moses might have been expressing his gladness for having finally settled, or grief for having been expelled from his familiar homeland.

A verb that may have been on Moses' mind is גרש (garash), meaning to drive or cast out:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Taking the name Gershom from the latter root would render it the meaning of Exile (as proposed by NOBSE Study Bible Name List).

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