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Meaning and etymology of the name Mahlah

Mahlah Mahlah

There are two Mahlah's in the Bible; one is a woman but the other one we're not sure about. Actually, the only reason we're not sure is that it's not explicitly said that the mystery Mahlah is a lady, and in Scriptures, that's usually suspicious. But, all suspicion aside, the name Mahlah is the feminine version of the masculine name Mahali, so that gives us a clue that this might be a feminine name. On the other hand, there are two words in Hebrew that look just like this name, and one is masculine and the other is feminine. The bottom line is that we don't know whether Mahlah the child of Hammoleketh (who is probably a granddaughter of Manasseh) is a boy or a girl (1 Chronicles 7:18).

The other Mahlah is surely female and one of the five daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1). Her sisters are called Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.

The name Mahlah comes from the root group hala (hala I, II & III):

The verb hala (hala I) means to be or become sick or faint (Genesis 48:1, Ezekiel 34:16). The derived masculine noun holi (holi) means sickness (Deuteronomy 28:61, Isaiah 38:9). The derived masculine noun mahaleh (mahaleh) means sickness or disease (Proverbs 18:14). Note the similarity between this word, the name Mahlah and the feminine noun mahalah (mahala), also meaning sickness or disease (Exodus 15:26, 23:25). The masculine noun mahaluy (mahaluy) indicates infirmity or suffering due to being wounded (2 Kings 8:29).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, our word malady comes from the Latin words male and habitus, but the similarities are striking.

The verb hala (hala II) means to beseech or entreat (Exodus 32:11, Psalm 45:12). This verb is the source of the name Mahalath.

The unused and untranslated root hala (hala III) yields the masculine noun holi (hali), meaning ornament (Proverbs 25:12), and the feminine noun helya (helya), meaning jewelry (Hosea 2:15).

It may seem odd that in antiquity people would call their children after sickness but itshould be noted that in the times of the Bible names worked differently than in our day and age. By naming his daughter Sickness, Zelophead probably didn't want to say that he thought his daughter was a disease, but perhaps that she was born during a period of infirmity, or else to remind himself and others that sickness is always among us. Compare for instance the meanings of the names of the children of Hosea: Jezreel (God sows - 1:4) and Lo-ruhammah (no mercy - 1:6), or Isaiah's son Maher-shalal-hash-baz (swift is the booty, speedy is the prey - Isaiah 8:3).

For a meaning of the name Mahlah, both NOBS Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Disease.

Other names coming off this root group are: Mahli, Mahlon, Hali, Halah and Halhul.



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