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Meaning and etymology of the name Nathan

Nathan Nathan

The name Nathan is assigned five or six times in the Bible. Most noted is Nathan the prophet who ministered during the days of king David (2 Samuel 12:1). He is the prophet whom God sends to David to inform him that his and Bathsheba's child will die because David had Bathsheba's husband Uriah murdered. Bathsheba's next child is named Solomon, and one of three following sons is named Nathan, possibly after the prophet. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus through this Nathan (Luke 3), Matthew goes through Solomon (Mat 1). For a possible reason for this duality, read our article on Names in the Bible.
Other Nathans are: a Judahite with an Egyptian father (1 Chronicles 2:36); The father of one of David's thirty mighty men (2 Samuel 23:36); A leader among the returnees (Ezra 8:16), who may or may not be the same as the Nathan who divorces his foreign wife during the purge of Ezra (Ez 10:39).

The name Nathan comes from the verb Nathan (natan), to give. Besides the regular meaning of giving, this verb is used in all sorts of placing, putting, committing, bestowing, even suffering, throwing, etc. Obviously, the derivations of this verb all mean gift: mattan (mattan); mattana (mattana); mattat (mattat). A special term for a certain kind of servant to Levites, netinim (netinim), the Nethinim or Given Ones, is also derived from this root (see Ezra 2:58, 8:20; compare with Numbers 31:30).

The name Nathan doesn't seem to denote something that is given (as NOBS Study Bible Name List suggests with the meaning of Gift), but rather an active form of the verb: He Will Give. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Given.

Names that are constructed from the name Nathan are: Elnathan, Nathanael, Nethanel, Nathan-melech, Nethaniah, and Jonathan.

A much less common verb that means to give is zabad, from whence come the names Zebadiah, Zebedee and many others.



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