🔼The name Abel-maim: Summary
- Streaming Waters
- From (1) the noun אבל ('abel), stream or brook, and (2) מים (mayim), waters.
🔼The name Abel-maim in the Bible
The name Abel-maim occurs only one time in the Bible. 2 Chronicles 16:4 tells about Ben-hadad, king of Aram, who conquers a territory in the north of Israel during the reign of king Asa of Judah and king Baasha of Israel. 2 Kings 15:29 tells of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who overruns roughly the same area during the reign of king Pekah of Israel. But in 2 Kings 15:29 the text tells of Abel-beth-maacah, while 2 Chronicles 16:4 mentions Abel-maim. Some (most) scholars take this for evidence that Abel-beth-maacah and Abel-maim are two names for the same town but there is absolutely no reason to assume this.
🔼Etymology of the name Abel-maim
The name Abel-maim obviously consists of two elements. The first element is Abel (which is not the same name as Abel, the brother of Cain), from the root-group אבל:
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-maim is the word מים (mayim), meaning sea or literally: waters:
The noun מים (mayim) means water, or rather: waters. It's a plural word for which there is no singular form. But if there were it would be מי (mi), which is identical to the common particle of inquisition, מי (mi), meaning "who?". In constructions (waters of such and such), the final ם (m) drops off, and what remains is identical to our particle of inquisition.
Water represents the great unknown from which the dry land (ארץ, 'eres) of the known emerges. The ancients knew that vapor rises from the seas and becomes rain and compared this cycle to that of cognition (Isaiah 55:10-1). The words for rain and teacher are the same: מורה (moreh), which are closely related to the familiar word Torah.
For a meaning of the name Abel-maim, NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes Meadow Of Waters, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Place Of Waters and BDB Theological Dictionary oddly suggests Wheat-Meadow. According to the interpretation of the Abel-part forwarded by HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the name Abel-maim would mean something like Streaming Waters.