& Meaning •
Meaning and etymology of the name Samuel
The name Samuel is applied to two men in the Bible. The first Samuel to appear is a son of Ammihud, from the tribe of Simeon, who is among the officials who are assigned to divide Canaan among the tribes of Israel (Numbers 34:20). The more famous Samuel is the last of the judges and the one who anoints Saul, the first king of Israel. His mother is Hannah and his father is Elkanah. Samuel was a Nazirite from before his birth (1 Samuel 1:11).
There are two ways to go with the name Samuel, although it obviously consists of two parts:
(1) Explanation number one (favored by NOBS Study Bible Name List) goes as follows: The first part of the name comes from the Hebrew word (shem), meaning 'name,' and which is also the name of Shem, the son of Noah. And it should be noted that in the Bible a name isn't merely an abstract appellative (like our Tom, Dick or Harry), but rather an expression of a person's deeds or character.
The second part of the name Samuel is the same as (El 93), the abbreviated genus God.
In between these two elements sits the letter waw, which often works as a linguistic coupling, so that the name Samuel means Name Of God.
(2) The other way to go (favored by Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) is to take the first part of the name Samuel from the verb (shama'), meaning to hear, listen to, obey. This verb is used over a thousand times in the Bible, often in the regular way of hearing something, but also in the sense of to obey someone, understand something or examine something.
Hence Jones reads Heard Of God, and thus relates the name Samuel closely to the name Ishmael.
Jones' explanation is attractive because it seems to fit the story (Hannah prayed for a child and was heard), but also because this verb is the base of the name Simeon, which is the name of the tribe where the name Samuel originated. A drawback of Jones' explanation is that it fails to address what might have happened to the letter ayin that's part of the verb but not of the name Samuel.
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