🔼The name Abanah: Summary
- Faith, Support
- Her Stone, Onto Stone, Petrifaction
- From the verb אמן ('aman), to confirm or support.
- From the noun אבן ('eben), stone, extended with the suffix ה (he), her or toward.
🔼The name Abanah in the Bible
The name Abanah occurs only once in the Bible. It belongs to one of two rivers of Damascus, the other one being the Pharpar. Both rivers are mentioned by Naaman, the leprous Aramaic general, who asserts that they are better for washing in than the Jordan (2 Kings 5:12). He was wrong, of course.
One of the most dominant themes of the story of Naaman is that of the wisdom of servants, and the subsequent responsibility and power that servants have over their masters. Although Naaman is a servant himself — as he has a master, namely the king — it is through him that YHWH makes Aram victorious. An Israelite slave girl who served his house suggests that he go to Samaria, to have the prophet Elisha cure his leprosy. Naaman relays the words to his master, the king, who gives him a royal letter to relay to the king of Israel. When Naaman arrives at the court of the king of Israel, he sends him on to Elisha.
When he arrives at Elisha's house, the prophet doesn't come out but sends a messenger to relay his orders to the general, to wash seven times in the Jordan. The general refuses, but his servants calm him down and persuade him to do it anyway. He dips in the Jordan seven times and is healed.
He and his party hurry back to Elisha's, who now that the general is clean, comes out to meet him. The general asks for forgiveness in advance, as he explains that although he now knows better (his mind is as clean as his body) he will still have to enter the temple of Rimmon since his master leans on him. And with that he summarizes the difficult theme of the story.
The story culminates in the foolish move of Elisha's servant, Gehazi, who chases after Naaman and asks for the gift that his mater Elisha had refused. As a result, not only Naaman's gift but also his leprosy transfers to Gehazi.
🔼Etymology of the name Abanah
It's not wholly clear what the name Abanah meant to the original name-giver, or, more crucial, what it meant to the author of our story. Some manuscripts of Kings don't even speak of Abanah but rather Amana, which was a known region in Aram, and the differences in Aramaic and Hebrew pronunciations suggest that the name Abanah is really a faithful Hebrew transliteration of the Aramaic pronunciation of the name Amana. In that case, our name stems from the familiar verb אמן ('aman), meaning to confirm or support:
The verb אמן ('aman) means to affirm or support. The familiar adverb אמן ('amen), its lesser known feminine version אמנה ('omna) and the plural variant אמנם ('umnam) mean verily or truly.
Noun אמן ('omen) means faithfulness and noun אמנה ('amana) means faith or support. Noun אמן ('omman) denotes a skilled or "true" worker. Noun אמן ('emun) means trusting or faithfulness. Noun אמונה ('emuna) means firmness, steadfastness or fidelity. And noun אמנה ('omna) means a bringing up or nourishment.
But perhaps the author of the story rather chose to hint at an interpretation of the story by changing the name of the familiar river of Aram, which refers to a faithful certainty, into a name that appears to relate to the noun אבן ('eben), stone, or a thing that won't change form once it's been hewn. Note that such hewn and manufactured stones were not allowed to be incorporated into the world-wide altar (Exodus 20:25, also see 1 Kings 6:7), which seems to suggest that the Word of God contains no immutable doctrines:
The noun אבן ('eben) is the regular word for stone. Stones were considered not only as the units of buildings and cities but also as units of permanent records. They were used as memorials, weapons, furniture, means to execute unwanted social elements, and even idols.
This word for stone seems akin to the verb בנה (bana), to build, and in turn to the noun בן (ben), son. There are several stones with names mentioned in the Old Testament.
If our name indeed derives from the noun אבן ('eben), it is extended by the suffix ה (he), which may indicate simple femininity (a lady stone), possessive (her stone) or a motion toward (onto stone; petrifaction).
For a meaning of the name Abanah, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with אבן ('eben) and reads Her Stones (without explaining the plural). NOBSE Study Bible Name List forgoes an interpretation, and so does BDB Theological Dictionary, although the latter does insist that our name derives from the verb אמן ('aman).