🔼The name Ahinoam: Summary
- My Brother Is Delight, Kindred To Sweetness
- From (1) the noun אח ('ah), brother, and (2) the verb נעם (naem), to be pleasant.
🔼The name Ahinoam in the Bible
There are two women named Ahinoam in the Bible:
- One is the daughter of Ahimaaz who married king Saul and had sons named Jonathan, Ishvi and Malchi-shua, and daughters named Merab and Michal (1 Samuel 14:49-50).
- The other Ahinoam is a Jezreelite and one of the first three wives of David (1 Samuel 25:43), and one of the two who were abducted from Ziklag by Amalekites (the other being Abigail). Ahinoam gives birth to David's first born son Amnon (2 Samuel 3:2), but he doesn't become crown prince as he obviously has a screw loose. He rapes his younger half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:14-20) and is subsequently put to death by order of her full brother Absalom (2 Samuel 13:19).
🔼Etymology of the name Ahinoam
The name Ahinoam is member of a vast cluster of Biblical אח ('ah)-names, and the 'ah-part is usually translated with "brother". Often that works fine but in some cases (feminine names) it doesn't. The name Ahinoam seems to be a case in which ah is unlikely to mean brother, unless the 'ah-part was in fact a reference to a deity named Brother:
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.
The second element of the name Ahinoam comes from the verb נעם (naem), meaning to be pleasant or sweet:
The verb נעם (na'em) means to be pleasant, delightful or sweet. Derived nouns נעם (no'am) and נעמן (na'aman) mean pleasantness. Adjective נעים (na'im), means pleasant. The plural noun מנעמים (man'ammim) describes "sweets" or dainties. The adjective נעים (na'im) describes a soft or pleasant sound.
For a meaning of the name Ahinoam, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary read My Brother Is Delight. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names too derives of the verb נעם but offers the rather divergent Brother Of Grace.
A Hebrew audience would probably have interpreted this name as something like: Kindred To Sweetness, or A Delightful Ally.