🔼The name Ahiman: Summary
- My Brother Is A Gift, Who Is My Brother?
- From (1) the noun אח ('ah), brother, and (2) the word מן (men), 'from', 'who is' or 'portion/gift'.
🔼The name Ahiman in the Bible
There are two characters named Ahiman in the Bible. The most notorious Ahiman is one of three giant sons of Anak (Numbers 13:22). Ahiman and his brothers Sheshai and Talmai are driven out of Hebron (previously known as Kiriath-arba) by Caleb (Joshua 15:14) but somehow they made it back and were subsequently slain by the tribe of Judah (Judges 1:10).
Ahiman number two is a Levite gatekeeper at the time of the early return from Babylon (1 Chronicles 9:17). His associates are called Shallum, Akkub and Talmon. It's unclear why — and none of the sources or commentaries we commonly consult even hint at it — but there is an obvious symmetry between the names of the gargantuan Hebronites and the post-exilic Levite gatekeepers:
🔼Etymology of the name Ahiman
The name Ahiman consists of two elements: The first part comes from the word אח ('ah), meaning brother or figuratively friend or close associate:
The noun אח ('ah) means brother, or more broadly: a fellow member of a social economic node (a "house") within a broader economic whole.
This word's lavish inclusion in names strongly suggests that the deity was reckoned by this word — in modern times we mostly speak of Our Father in Heaven but in antiquity the deity appears to have also been addressed as Our Brother. The New Testament appears to entertain that dynamic in the tenet that the Word is God's Son, and all who have the Word are godly brothers. Also note the similarity with the verb חוה (hawa), to show, tell, make known.
The noun אחוה ('ahawa) means brotherhood and אחות ('ahot) means sister.
Where the second part of the name Ahiman comes from is disputed. The renowned theologian Gesenius believes it comes from the unused root מנן (mnn), which occurs in Arabic in the meaning of to give (as a gift). A Hebrew derivative that has survived in the Bible is the masculine noun מן (men), meaning portion, as used in Psalm 45:9.
Another possibility, favored by Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) is the rare interrogative particle מן (man), meaning what? or who? This word is closely related to the identical "name" מן (man), Manna, the miraculous bread that came raining from the sky during the wilderness years, and in fact occurs only once and that in the Manna cycle (Exodus 16:15). Still, to the Hebrews the name Ahiman may have sounded like Who Is My Brother?.
Thirdly, there is the ubiquitous particle מן (men), meaning from or out of:
The interrogative pronoun מן (man) means "what?" but the preposition מן (min) means "out of" or "from". The latter is often deployed as prefix, in which only the מ (m) is written. Nouns formed from "מ plus root" commonly describe an "agent" or "place-of" whatever the action of the root describes.
Noun מן (men) describes a harp string and is an Aramaic loan word.
Verb מנה (mana) means to count or assign. Nouns מנה (mana) and מנת (menat) mean portion or part. Noun מנה (maneh) is a unit of weight; the mina. And noun מנה (moneh) means time (not clock time but as in ten "times").
For a meaning of the name Ahiman, BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List both follow Gesenius and read My Brother Is A Gift. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) proposes Who Is My Brother? but also mentions Gesenius' solution favored by NOBSE and BDB.