🔼The name Ai: Summary
- From the verb עוה ('awa), to bend or twist.
🔼The name Ai in the Bible
The ancient Canaanite city of Ai (Genesis 12:8) is the second city that Joshua attacked during his invasion of Canaan; the first being Jericho (Joshua 7:2). Conquering Ai didn't go very smooth at first. A man named Achan, son of Carmi of Judah, had broken YHWH's command and taken for himself items from the spoil. When Israel attacked Ai, the Lord appeared the have withdrawn his support and Israel was defeated. After Achan was identified, his deeds exposed, and he and his children were executed in the valley of Achor, Israel attacked Ai again and this time sacked it completely (Joshua 8:22).
🔼Etymology of the name Ai
The name Ai comes from the verb עוה ('awa), meaning to bend or twist to a point of destruction:
The verb עוה ('awa) means to bend or twist, usually with a bottom line or ruin or perversion. Noun עון ('awon) means iniquity or guilt. Verb עוה ('awa) means to commit iniquity of do wrong. Nouns עוה ('awwa), עי ('i) and מעי (me'i) mean distortion or ruin. Plural noun עועים ('iw'im) means a distorting or warping.
Note that this name Ai is spelled in most cases with the prefix ה (he) — which is either the definite article ("the"), or else the particle of direction ("towards the") or ascription ("of the") — including at its first appearance in Genesis 12:8: העי: The Ruin, or Toward Ruin. Nehemiah uses an Aramaic feminine form עיא in Nehemiah 11:31, and Isaiah uses a Hebrew feminine form עית in Isaiah 10:28.
For a meaning of the name Ai, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Ruin and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names offers the rather elaborate A Heap Of Ruins. BDB Theological Dictionary neither translates the name Ai nor places it under the root discussed above. This probably means that BDB doesn't think that the name Ai technically derives from the verb עוה, but a Hebrew audience, especially one without any etymologists, would indubitably make the link without reservations.