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Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Gershom

Gershom Gershom / Gershom

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). Then there is Gershom, a false priest in service of some Danites (Judges 18:30); a man among the Babylonian returnees (Ezra 8:2); and finally Gershom the first-born son of Moses and Zipporah. His younger brother of is called Eliezer (Exodus 2:22).

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

If we assume that the writer of Exodus 2:22 (Moses himself, according to tradition) wants to indicate that the name Gershom is based on the Hebrew word ger, then we should conclude that the name Gershom consists of two segments. The first segment comes from the verb gur (gur), meaning to abide, gather, dwell, be a stranger. Derivative ger (ger) means alien, sojourner, stranger. See for a better look at this word the name Gerar. Another Hebrew name that may contain this verb is Hagar.

The second part of the name Gershom may either be sham (sham) meaning there, or it is sham (shem), meaning name. This word is actually is the name Shem, and is also used in the name Samuel.

The name Gershom may mean Stranger There (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names), but it may also mean or 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 garash (garash), cast up, drive out or away, divorce, expel, etc. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reports, "The root denotes an effective separation between persons or groups, expulsion."

That would render the name Gershom the meaning of Exile (NOBS Study Bible Name List).

Famous cases of expulsion are Adam and Eve, Cain, and David on the run for Saul. A beautiful derivation of this verb is the noun garash (geresh), something yielded or put forth. This noun is used only once, in Deuteronomy 33:14, where it denotes produce which is 'thrust' up out of the ground (lit:) by the moons.



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