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Meaning and etymology of the name Shoshannah

Shoshannah Shoshannah

The name Shoshannah is the Hebrew form of the name Susannah and occurs only in an apochrypical chapter of the book of Daniel. It is identical to the word shoshannah (shoshannah), meaning lily, but there's a lot more to it than that.

The ah-part of this name is the regular feminizing extension of the noun shushan (shushan), which also means lily. This word is related to Egyptian and Akkadian words, meaning something similar (HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament suggests: big flower, water lily). The winter residence of Persian kings was known by this name: Susa.

The name Shoshannah and the word shushan were imported into the Hebrew language, so etymologically they're dead ends. But maybe they were so readily incorporated in Hebrew because they seemed to make a lot of sense anyway. In fact, they seem to be grafted upon a marvelously intricate web of meaning that already existed:

In Hebrew, the word shushan looks like it is a construct from a certain root with a nun extension, and the nun, or waw-nun, often has the function of personifying or localizing the root (see for instance the names Sidon, Gershon, Hebron, Samson, etc).

The word shush does not exists in Hebrew but since in this word the waw serves as a vowel, and may be either dropped or replaced by a yod, we arrive at the words shesh and shayish (see for instance the heading of Psalm 45: Psalm 45:1, "on the lillies;" or Psalm 80: Psalm 80:1, "the testimony of the lilies").

The word shesh (shesh) denotes the number six. Since lilies have six leaves, some commentators derive the word shushan from shesh or rather, as HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says, from the Akkadian equivalent shushua, meaning six. Whether by etymology or chance, the lily was known to the ancient world as a 'sixie.' (and displaying three lilies - Pope Simplicius, 468-483 and pope Paulus VI, 1963-1978 - doesn't seem particularly clever).

The word shesh may also be the word shesh (2379a) meaning alabaster, or a similar material. It occurs in Esther 1:6 where it is used in a pavement. In the Song of Solomon, this word occurs in close proximity to the word lily. In 5:13 the bride compares the lips of the bridegroom to lilies, and in verse 15 his legs to pillars of alabaster. It seems that this material calls to mind firmness and stability; something you can stand on. The alabaster of the ancients was a white, translucent material, mostly used to make perfume bottles. This bottle shows up in the gospels where the 'woman of sin' pours its contents over the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:38; although in Matthew 26:7 and Mark 14:3 she pours it over His head).

There are many species but a lily common to the Biblical region was the Lilium candidum, or Madonna Lily; an alabaster white flower on a stem that may reach up to two meters in length, and which, most unusually for a lily, remains for much of the year.

The word shesh (shesh) is derived of the word shayish (shayish), meaning alabaster as well. BDB Theological Dictionary reports that this word in Aramaic is Shisha, which is also identical to the name Shisha. The word shayish (shayish) occurs in 1 Chronicles 29:2, where it is listed among the materials to be used in the Temple.

The Temple was a continuation of the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle was equipped with curtains of fine Egyptian linen. The word for that - shesh (shesh) - is identical to the words shesh (shesh), alabaster and shesh (shesh), six.

Another word that features the signature double shin is the word yashesh (yashesh) from an unused and assumed similar root, meaning aged or decrepit (occurs only in 2 Chronicles 36:17) The variant yashish (yashish) occurs four times, and solely in the book of Job (12:12, 15:10, 29:8, 32:6) and it denotes men of age but with a connotation of honor and venerability. None of the sources reports a connection between the words shesh & shayish and yashesh & yashish but to a Hebrew audience the relation is hard to miss:

Job 12:12 states that "wisdom is with aged men; with long life is understanding." King Solomon, who built the Temple and who also wrote the Song of Solomon, states that wisdom has built a house and has hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1). He covertly refers to the lily-like lips of the Bridegroom in Proverbs 10:31, where he states that wisdom flows from the mouth of the righteous and what is acceptable from his lips.

In the Bible the number seven (the amount of pillars of wisdom - see our article on Elizabeth for a name formed from the number seven) often denotes the completion of a cycle, most famously that of the creation. Subsequently, the number six often functions in the Bible as the mark of the final productive stage of that cycle. On the sixth creation day all that has been made was completed, with man as grand finale and as final act 'before seven.' When the flood came, Noah was six hundred years old (Genesis 7:6); Jesus' transfiguration occurred "after six days" (Mat 17:1); His first miracle had to do with six water jars (John 2:6), and he dined with Lazarus, Mary and Martha six days before Passover (John 12:1 - the same scene in which Mary anointed Jesus' feet).

In Daniel 7:9 God is pictured as the Ancient of Days, dressed in white linen and seated upon a blazing throne. This throne reappears in Revelation 20:11 where it is reported to be white.

All in all, Shoshannah is quite a name.

The name Shoshannah means Lilly.

Also see the name Jeshishai.



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