& Meaning •
Meaning and etymology of the name Merab
Merab is the oldest of two daughters of king Saul, the other is called Michal (1 Samuel 14:49). In one of his more generous moods (and right after hurling his spear at David) Saul promises Merab to David as wife (18:17). David plays timid and Merab goes to Adriel the Meholathite. The day Merab marries Adriel, Saul promises his second daughter Michal to David. That marriage actually happens.
Merab becomes the mother of five sons but there names are not mentioned in the Bible (2 Samuel 21:8 - the Hebrew has the name Michal here but that's commonly understood to be a scribal error. Merab, not Michal was married to Adriel, and Michal stayed childless - 2 Samuel 6:23; Read our article on the infallibility of the Bible).
When much later a three year famine strikes Israel, the men of Gibeon demand of king David the extradition of seven of Saul's descendants, to serve as a kind of bizarre human sacrifice (2 Samuel 21:8). David actually consents and gives them all five sons of Merab and Adriel, as well as Armoni and Mephiboseth the sons of Saul and Rizpah. All seven are hanged at Gibeah.
The name Merab comes from a group words that are obviously related:
The verb (rabab I), meaning to be or become many (Genesis 6:1, Exodus 23:29).
The derived adjective (rab I) means much, many or great (Genesis 24:25, Psalm 19:11).
The identical masculine noun (rab II) means chief or captain (= of many - Esther 1:8, Jeremiah 39:3).
The masculine noun (rob) means multitude or abundance (Genesis 16:10, Hosea 8:12).
The feminine noun (rebaba) means ten-thousand or myriad (Genesis 24:60, Micah 6:7).
The later, Aramaized feminine noun (ribo) also means ten-thousand or myriad (Jonah 4:11, Ezra 2:64). And the masculine noun (rebibim) denotes copious showers (Jeremiah 3:3, Psalm 65:10).
The verb (rabab II), meaning to shoot (Genesis 49:23, Psalm 18:15), and its derived masculine noun (rab III) meaning archer (Jeremiah 50:29, Job 16:13). None of the sources reports a connection between rabab I and II, but apart from the words being the same, a hefty rain shower is not all that different from an attack by a contingent of archers, and if possibly these words evolved from separate ideas into similar forms, this may have happened so readily because they express highly similar images.
The verb (raba II) also means to shoot and is used in Genesis 21:20 only. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament generously offers that this verb is "doubtless a by-form of (raba I)."
And surely, the verb raba I) means to be or become great, many, much or numerous (Genesis 7:17, Exodus 16:18, Job 29:18). Derivatives are:
The masculine noun (arbeh), meaning a kind of locust (Judges 6:5);
The masculine noun (marbeh), meaning increase (Isaiah 9:6) or abundance (Isaiah 33:23);
The feminine noun (mirbah), meaning much (Ezekiel 23:32 only - "much to contain");
The feminine noun (marbit), meaning increase, greatness, multitude (1 Samuel 2:33, 2 Chronicles 9:6);
The feminine noun (tarbut), meaning increase, brood (Numbers 32:14 only);
The feminine noun (tarbit), meaning increment, usury (Ezekiel 18:8).
BDB Theological Dictionary disregards a possible derivation from the above root group and lists Merab without explanation as unconnected entity alphabetically under the letter mem. Perhaps this is technically the right thing to do, but to any Hebrew audience, the name Merab would have had to do with the verbs rabab and raba.
For a meaning of the name Merab, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Multiplication. NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Increase.
Other names that were derived of this word group are
Rabbah, Rabbith and Jeroboam.
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