🔼The name Shaphan: Summary
- Coney, Shy
- From the noun שפן (shapan), coney (?), from the verb שפן (shapan), to hide.
🔼The name Shaphan in the Bible
It's not clear how many different men named Shaphan there are in the Bible. Estimates range from just one (NOBSE Study Bible Name List) to four (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) to five (BDB Theological Dictionary, although BDB helpfully acknowledges that the five probably overlap). The five candidates are:
- The son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, and scribe in service of king Josiah of Judah (2 Kings 22:3). When Josiah initiated his famous reforms, he sent Shaphan to high priest Hilkiah to arrange for the workmen to be paid. Hilkiah submitted to Shaphan that he had found the Book of the Law, gave it to Shaphan, who then gave it to king Josiah. The words of the book prompted Josiah into even further reforms, and he sent Shaphan and a small delegation to Huldah the prophetess to have the book expounded (2 Kings 22:14).
- The father of Ahikam, whom Josiah sent to Huldah as well (2 Kings 22:12), and who helped save the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). This Shaphan was also the grandfather of Gedaliah, the governor of Judah after the second Babylonian deportation (2 Kings 25:22). Both Alfred Jones and BDB Theological Dictionary deem this Shaphan and the previous one as separate, but neither argues this. BDB even states that it's only "improbable" that the two are the same. The reason for this is probably that the first Shaphan is distinguished as "the scribe" and the second one typically isn't. If the two Shaphans mentioned in 2 Kings 22:12 were the same, it would have been indicated (like "Shaphan the scribe and Ahikam his son").
- The father of Elasah, who carried Jeremiah's letter to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:3). BDB suggests that this Shaphan could be the same as the second (meaning that Elasah and Ahikam were brothers). Jones neither refutes nor confirms this.
- A scribe and the father of Gemariah, who had a chamber in the house of YHWH (Jeremiah 36:10-12). In this chamber, Baruch read the book of Jeremiah. BDB generously admits that this Shaphan might be the same as the first one. Jones sees no reason to even divide the two and lists Jeremiah 36:10-12 as occurrences of the first Shaphan.
- The father of Jaazaniah, one of the seventy elders whom Ezekiel saw commit falsehoods in the temple (Ezekiel 8:11). Jones lists this Shaphan as separate but BDB proposes that this one too might be the same as the first.
🔼Etymology of the name Shaphan
The name Shaphan is the same as the noun שפן (shapan), which denotes a quadruped cud-chewing animal:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or coney.
For a meaning of the name Shaphan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Prudent, Shy. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Coney. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't translate Shaphan but does confirm that it's identical to the noun שפן (shapan).