🔼The name Netophah in the Bible
Netophah is the name of a sparsely mentioned town somewhere close to Bethlehem of Judah. Both Ezra and Nehemiah report that a large group of men from Netophah returned from the Babylonian exile, together with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:22, Nehemiah 7:26). A small discrepancy arises when Ezra counts 123 men from Bethlehem and 56 from Netophah, while Nehemiah counts 188 men from both. We don't know how this happened — Ezra and Nehemiah obviously met each other — but perhaps there is treasure even in these differences; something that still needs figuring out.
The village of Netophah is only mentioned twice in the Bible, but the ethnonym נטפתי or נטופתי (= Netophathite = someone from Netophah) occurs more often: Maharai, one of David's might men and later military leader, was a Netophathite (2 Samuel 23:28) and so was Baanah, the father of Heleb, another mighty-man (2 Samuel 23:29). Tanhumeth, the father of Seraiah who was among the military leaders who went to Gedaliah to check him out, was a Netophathite (2 Kings 25:23). The prophet Jeremiah, who tells the story of Gedaliah more elaborate, reveals that Tanhumeth wasn't the only Netophathite present at that occasion. There were also the sons of Ephai the Netophathite (Jeremiah 40:8).
The Chronicler explains that Salma of Judah was the ancestor of Bethlehem and the Netophathites and some other populations (1 Chronicles 2:54), but after the return from exile, several Levites moved into the villages of the Netophathites, which suggests that Netophah was actually the hub of a cluster of related towns peopled by Netophathites. One of these satellite towns may have been called Othniel: Heldai the Netophathite of Othniel was a military leader in king David's army (1 Chronicles 27:15). Nehemiah reports that the villages of the Netophathites supplied singers to liven up the dedication of the newly repaired wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:28).
🔼Etymology of the name Netophah
The name Netophah comes from the verb נטף (natap), meaning to drip:
For the meaning of the name Netophah, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads A Dropping and BDB Theological Dictionary has Dropping, Dripping. NOBSE Study Bible Name List lists Netophathite and explains this as "an inhabitant of Netophah" but has no listing for Netophah.