🔼The name Rephan: Summary
🔼The name Rephan in the Bible
The name Rephan or Rompha occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Acts 7:43, where Stephen quotes Amos 5:26 while addressing the Sanhedrin. Whether our translated version of the Bible speaks of Rephan or Rompha depends on the source this translation uses, because both versions (spelled variously as Ρομφα, Ρεμφαν, Ρεμφαμ, Ρεφαν) occur in Greek texts with comparable frequency (the popular modern NIV, for instance, speaks of Rephan, but the renowned modern NAS speaks of Rompha).
But whether we prefer Rephan or Rompha, we're not wholly certain to which deity this name belongs. Stephen quoted the prophet Amos from the Greek Septuagint, which already spoke of Rephan/Rompha, but the Hebrew original spoke of Kiyyun (or so it seems; please refer to our article on that name for a closer look at this Hebrew version).
🔼Who was Rephan?
There are several theories concerning the identity of Rephan and the link with Kiyyun, but the best guess is probably that Kiyyun was the Semitic name of some deity that was better known as Rephan in Greek speaking circles. Some scholars (starting with Athanasius Kircher, Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta; 17th century) believe that Rephan was actually Coptic, which then suggests that Rephan rose to prominence during the post-Alexander Ptolemaic era.
The Septuagint authors (or the Seventy) may have figured that their audience would not understand who Kiyyun was but had heard of Rephan, and helpfully replaced the former with the latter. We moderns obviously do the same thing, by, for instance printing Heliopolis while the text says Beth-shemesh (Jeremiah 43:13, NAS), or Mesopotamia where the text speaks of Aram-naharaim (Genesis 24:10, NAS). In fact, both Amos' Hebrew original and the Septuagint's translation speak of an exile "beyond Damascus," while Stephen says "beyond Babylon".
The suggestion that the Seventy had mistaken the Hebrew letter כ (kaph) for a ר (rosh) and somehow blundered from כיון (Kiyyun) to which ever version of Rephan is positively nonsense. The Seventy were much more intimately acquainted with the Scriptures than the overwhelming majority of scholars are today, and mistaking a כ (kaph) for a ר (rosh) requires the complete absence of any sense and structure that defined the Seventy in the first place.
The Septuagint is an admitted liberal enigma, but it's highly unlikely that the receiving Hellenized Jewish culture at large would have rendered it its status as an academic masterpiece if it were botched in any way, or even carefully composed by amateurs who hadn't even such basic skills as knowing the whole of Scriptures by heart, and whose intellectual immaturity allowed them to mistake one Hebrew letter for another.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Rephan
It doesn't happen often but here at Abarim Publications we're pretty much at a loss regarding the name Rephan. If Rephan indeed replaced Kiyyun in Greek texts in the wake of the revival of Egyptian theology after Alexander the Great, and both names indeed belong to the planet Saturn, we would expect some more extant extra-Biblical references to it to exists, but apparently, they're rare.
The Greek name for the planet Saturn was Φαινων (Phainon), meaning shiner, from the verb φαινω (phaino), meaning to shine, bring to light or cause to appear. If we allow Kiyyun to mean Likeness or Because Of Him (see our article on that name), we might be able to imagine a faint connection to Phainon, but not a very strong one. But this still wouldn't explain Rephan.
Perhaps, as some scholars suggest, Rephan wasn't Coptic of even Greek, but rather Hebrew, a name like Belial, or the boseth-part of the names Mephibosheth and Ish-bosheth, used to censure out references to something ugly. Rephan could then be taken from רפה (rapa), meaning to sink down or let drop, and would thus mean Fallen One.
Nowadays we can only guess why the Seventy did certain things in certain ways, but the chances are excellent that the Seventy knew something about Amos 5:26 that is lost to us today. The prophet Amos started this whole mystery, and perhaps the Seventy decided to not only preserve the text as it was, but also to include hints to solutions of Biblical mysteries that grew harder to understand as time progressed. That would explain the many different versions of this name; these all arose from different interpretations of the same original — while Amos' original was not restricted to one correct one but contained all these.
Perhaps Rephan became Remphan to relate it to the noun ρεμβος (rembos), meaning A Roaming or A Wandering, again in semi-reference to Saturn.
Perhaps Remphan became Rompha to nudge readers towards a meaning of Kiyyun (and ultimately of Amos 5:26). In that case Rompha might be artificially constructed from the familiar Hebrew verb רום (rum), meaning to rise, and the adverb of location פה (poh), meaning here. Rompha's רום (rum) would then correlate with Kiyyun's כון (kun), meaning to be established, fixed, certain, while פה (poh) would relate to the particle of relation כי (ki), that, or כ (ke), like. In that case, Rompha would mean High Here in the sense of Was Carried Here after Amos' use of the verb to carry.
All together, Amos may not even have been talking about some established deity but rather about, say, the principle of the metaphor, and the abuses of it (such as the Nehushtan-case described in 2 Kings 18:4, the ephod-case of Judges 8:27 or the Herod-case of Acts 12:22). If that is so (as well), then Rompha means High Here also in the sense of Misplaced Glory.