🔼The name Abner: Summary
- My Father Is A Lamp, Father Of Light
- From (1) the noun אב ('ab), father, and (2) the noun נר (ner), lamp.
🔼The name Abner in the Bible
Abner commands Saul's army (14:50 — only here he's called אבינר; Abiner) and is present when David kills Goliath (17:55). When Davis slips into Saul's camp and takes a few souvenirs while all the guards are asleep, David cries out to Abner from a safe distance and rebukes him (26:15). After Saul's death, Abner endorses Ish-bosheth as successor (2 Samuel 2:8), and after two years of his reign, Abner's army is defeated by that of David (2:17).
The three sons of David's sister Zeruiah, namely Joab (with whom Abner seems to have developed a bizarre he-man kind of friendship; 2 Samuel 2:13-16), Abishai and the swift-footed Asahel pursue Abner. After repeated warning, Abner kills Asahel (2:23) and the remaining brothers let him go back to Ish-bosheth's court (2:30). When Ish-bosheth makes a derogatory remark concerning Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, Abner deflects to David (3:7, 3:20). Joab kills him in the gate of Hebron (3:27).
🔼Etymology of the name Abner
The name Abner consists of two elements. The first part of the name comes from the common Hebrew word אב ('ab), meaning father:
The noun אב ('ab) means father, but describes primarily a social relationship rather than a biological one. That social fatherhood was the defining quality of the community's alpha male, the one around whom all economy revolved and from whom emanated all instructions by which the 'sons' (בן, ben) operated. It's unclear where this word אב ('ab) comes from but the verb abu means to decide.
The added letter י (yod) creates a possessive; the compound אבי (abi) may mean my father, or father of, depending on the context.
The second part of the name Abner comes from the noun נר (ner), meaning lamp:
The verb נהר (nahar) means to flow or stream and is used for both water and light (which in turn demonstrates that the ancients had Relativity Theory; see our expanded article for more). Noun נהר (nahar) means river or stream. Noun נהרה (nahara) means light or daylight and מנהרה (minhara) "place of nahara". Nouns נר (ner) and ניר (nir) mean lamp, and nouns מנורה (menorah) and מנרה (menorah) mean lampstand.
For a meaning of the name Abner, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads The Father Is A Lamp. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Father Of Light, and BDB Theological Dictionary reads the optional My Father Is Ner or My Father Is A Lamp.