🔼The name Abel-beth-maacah: Summary
- Stream Of The House Of The Squeeze
- From (1) the noun אבל ('abel), stream or brook, (2) the noun בית (beth), house, and (3) the verb מעך (ma'ak), to press.
🔼The name Abel-beth-maacah in the Bible
Abel-beth-maacah, apparently also known as just Beth-maacah (2 Samuel 20:14, the word ו, meaning 'and' sits between Abel and Beth-maacah, but that may be just another spelling of Abel-beth-maacah, which in turn might be a twin-city) and perhaps also known as just Abel (2 Samuel 20:18) is a town in north Israel. It's where king David's general Joab kills his cousin Amasa while chasing an insurrectionary named Sheba son of Bichri (2 Samuel 20). Joab and his men besiege the town and try to wreck the wall in order to get in. The townsfolk don't like to see their wall demolished so they helpfully chop off the head of Sheba and toss it over to Joab, who subsequently takes his leave from the town and goes back to Jerusalem.
The town of Abel-beth-maacah is mentioned again in 2 Kings 15:29, in a list of towns conquered by Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, during the reign of king Pekah of Israel. In 2 Chronicles 16:4 we read about Ben-hadad, king of Aram, who conquered the same area during the reign of king Baasha of Israel and king Asa of Judah, but instead of Abel-beth-maacah, the text mentions Abel-maim. This has led scholars to believe that Abel-beth-maacah and Abel-maim are the same town. There is, however, no evidence for that.
🔼Etymology of the name Abel-beth-maacah
The name Abel-beth-maacah consists of three parts:
The verb בלל (balal) means to mix something with oil, usually flour products, usually as ritualistic food preparation. The emphasis of this verb lies on saturation and overflowing: to fill something with oil until it can absorb no more and begins to reject an excess of oil. Noun בליל (belil) describes a very rich mix for animals to eat. Noun שבלול (shabbelul) describes a snail, or an animal that looks saturated with oil. Nouns תבל (tebel) describes sexually incompatible partners, and noun תבלל (teballul) tells of insoluble material that obstructs a person's eye.
The verb יבל (yabal) speaks mostly of a flowing along some course, which of course requires the bottom of the course to be saturated and reject any further absorption. Noun יבל (yabal) means water course or conduit, noun יובל (yubal) means stream and noun אובל ('ubal) means stream or river. Adjective יבל (yabbal) means suppurating (discharging pus from a wound). Noun יבול (yebul) denotes produce from the soil and noun בול (bul) means produce or outgrowth. Noun יובל (yobel) or יבל (yobel) describes "a carrier" or "a producer" or "something that drives a flow" (e.g. a trumpet, or the principle of Jubilee). Noun תבל (tebel) refers to the whole world-economy.
Verb אבל ('abel) is like the previous ones in that it describes a drive of liquid or semi-liquid elements along some collective course. It's often used to describe a collective mourning, which either happened in a procession or else contagious enough to drag others along. Nouns אבל ('ebel) and אבל ('abel) both mean mourning, but the latter is also the word for actual water stream or brook. In cognate languages this verb is used to describe the driving of camels. There is even a sporadically used adverb אבל ('abal), which in older texts expresses solemn affirmation (verily, truly, yes indeed I'm totally going along with you there) but later texts appear to put somewhat of a breaking force on the momentum ("yes!... but").
The second part of the name Abel-beth-maacah is the familiar noun בית (bayit), meaning house:
The noun בית (bayit) means house. It sometimes merely denotes a domestic building, but mostly it denotes the realm of authority of the house-father, or אב (ab). This ab is commonly the living alpha male of a household, but may very well be a founding ancestor (as in the familiar term the "house of Israel"). The אב (ab) may also be a deity, in which case the בית (bayit) is that which we know as a temple.
In the larger economy, a house interacts with other houses. These interactions are governed by the אב (ab), or "father" and executed by the בנים (benim), or "sons": those people living in the house, irrespective of any biological relation with the אב (ab). The "sons" combined add up to אם ('em), which means both "mother" and "tribe".
And the third part of the name Abel-beth-maacah comes from the verb מעך (ma'ak), meaning to squeeze or press:
The verb מעך (ma'ak) means to press or squeeze. It's used a mere three times in the Old Testament.
For a meaning of the name Abel-beth-maacah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes Meadow Of The House Of Oppression and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Mourning Of The House Of Oppression. BDB Theological Dictionary translates the other Abel-names but not this one, and only states that it is the same as Abel-mayim (which is not sure at all). And if we were to believe HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the name Abel-beth-maacah means something like Stream Of The House Of Oppression/Squeezing.