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Meaning and etymology of the name Orpah

Orpah Orpah

Orpah is the Moabite wife of Chillion, the son of Naomi and Elimelech of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:4; see 3:10). She's also the sister in law of Ruth, who was married to Mahlon. When the men die in Moab, Naomi moves back to Israel and Ruth goes with her. Orpah stays in Moab and disappears off the Biblical stage. In Israel, Ruth marries Boaz and becomes the mother of Obed, the grandmother of Jesse and the great-grandmother of king David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ.

The name Orpah comes from the root group arap (arap I & II). The added letter heh is a common feminization form:

The verb arap (arap) means to break the neck of an animal, and identical derivation arap (orap) means the back or neck. If the name Orpah is related to this verb it means Neck, but never without its metaphorical values: a hand in one's neck argues authority over that person, one turns one's neck in shame or derision, and a stubborn person is called stiff-necked.

The verb arap (arap II) means to drip or drop. Derivations are arap (arip) meaning cloud, and arapel (arapel) meaning darkness, dark cloud, gloom. That way the name Orphah may mean anything from Drip to Cloud to Shadow. That's not at all unusual, or even negative, since in the Bible great things tend to occur in darkness (Genesis 1:2, 15:17).

Some other Biblical names that (may) have to do with darkness are: Bezalel, Cush, Ephah, Kedar, Kidron, Lilith, Sharon, Zillah.

Then of course there is a possibility that someone creative enough might hear a compound of the words arar (arar) strip of make bear (usually in order to mourn) plus peh (peh), mouth (which makes no sense), or peh (poh), here, which would render the name Orpah to mean Strip Here, and that would only make sense if she was born in a dressing room.

Then there is the following fabulously interesting group of words: awar (awar), to make blind, which (as a result of a cataract) probably comes from the word awar (or), skin or hide. The root awar (ur) yields ir (ir) meaning excitement, and (as if the connection to both skin, excitement and blindness isn't clear enough) an identical root awar (ur), to be exposed, laid bare, yields a number of variously spelled derivations that mean nakedness: maor (maor), erom (erom), arom (arom).

The name Orphah is fabulously rich of meaning, perhaps because it's a Moabite and not a Hebrew name. But then, her sister-in-law's name was Ruth, and that's a common Hebrew word.

For a meaning of the name Orphah, both NOBS Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names go with arap, meaning neck. Jones reads Mane (BDB Theological Dictionary explains that the Arabic cognate means just that: mane). NOBS simply reads Neck.



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