🔼The name Achish: Summary
- Unclear but perhaps: He Was Afraid, Majestic, Angry, Gift Of God...
🔼The name Achish in the Bible
There are two men named Achish in the Bible, both kings of the Philistine city Gath:
- One is the king Achish, son of Maoch (1 Samuel 27:2) to whom David flees when he's on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 21:10). But rumors of David's blood thirst have reached Achish' court, and in order not to be arrested, David pretends to be insane. Later, David writes Psalm 34 and calls Achish by his title Abimelech (the Philistine version of the Roman Caesar, Egyptian Pharaoh or Nubian Candace). A while later, David goes back to Achish, and even brings his wives Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel. Achish gives them the city of Ziklag, which is subsequently annexed to Judah (1 Samuel 27:6). David, however, continues to raid and murder Philistine allies (1 Samuel 27:9).
- The other Achish is mentioned in 1 Kings 2:39. He's also a king of Gath but he's a son of Maacah, so not the same as the first Achish. Shimei, the man who called David belial, breaks parole when he goes to Achish to retrieve his wayward servants. When he returns to Jerusalem, king Solomon has him executed by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Achish
It's a mystery where the name Achish comes from. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) offers no translation but refers to the onomasticon of Simonis, which reads "timoris et reverentiae continae," meaning "contains fear and reverence". Apparently, in Arabic exists a similar name which means He Was Afraid; probably intending to reflect the fear instilled in the other guy. A comparable word in Persian means honor, majesty, says Jones, but BDB Theological Dictionary refers to a Persian word meaning anger.
David Rohl (Pharaohs and Kings) suggests that the name Achish may be related to the Hurrian name Akishimige, meaning Gift Of The Sun God. Other scholars propose that the name Achish may be related to the Greek name Anchises (the Philistines came from Crete, so that's not so far-fetched), who was the lover of Aphrodite. Anchises seems to have to do with closeness or nearness.
To a Hebrew audience, however, the name אכיש may seem to be related to the name כוש (Cush), with a weak aleph prefixed and the waw replaced with a yod. But that won't help trying to establish the meaning of Achish because the meaning of Cush is also missing in action.