🔼The name Anah: Summary
- Answer, Task, Affliction, Song
- From the verb(s) ענה ('ana), to correspond, be busy with, afflict or sing.
🔼The name Anah in the Bible
There are three different Anahs mentioned in the Bible, although not every scholar would agree with that:
- The first Anah we meet is a parent of Oholibamah (the wife of Esau, brother of Jacob), and a child of Zibeon the Hivite. But there is some controversy concerning the gender of this Anah. The word between Anah and Zibeon is בת (bat), and that means daughter, and that would make Anah the mother of Oholibamah and daughter of Zibeon the Hivite. The problem comes with the other men named Anah:
- One of a few sons of Seir the Horite (Genesis 36:20), who also has a son named Zibeon. Either this Anah or the next became a chief of the Horites (Genesis 36:29).
- The son of Zibeon the Horite (Genesis 36:24). This Anah famously found hot springs (or so we think is the meaning of the curious word ימם — yemim) in the wilderness while tending his father's donkeys. This Anah had a daughter, and her name was Oholibamah (Genesis 36:25).
The problem of the gender of the first Anah arose when scholars in their learnedness began to assume that the Hivites mentioned in Genesis 36:2 were the same as the Horites mentioned in 36:20 and on. In the Horite clan, Zibeon is the father of his son Anah, who is the father of his daughter Oholibamah. But in the Hivite clan, Zibeon is the father of his daughter Anah, who is the mother of her daughter Oholibamah.
Both the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint read son of Zibeon in Genesis 36:2. Hence many old-school commentators assumed that the surviving texts of the Hebrew book of Genesis is a corrupt copy of a text that once said "son-of", and from which the ancient translations were drawn.
New-school commentators and translations, however, appear less willing to change words in the traditional Hebrew text, but appear equally unwilling to let go of the idea that the Hivites of verse 2 and the Horites of verse 20 are the same people. And so, the word בת (bat) that sits between Anah and Zibeon in verse 2 is taken to refer to Oholibamah: a daughter of Anah and a (grand)daughter of Zibeon.
This meaning of "granddaughter" or even the more general "descendant" of the word בת (bat) is perfectly allowed in other contexts (like the phrase "daughter of Aaron" applied to Elizabeth; Luke 1:5), but it seems that the commonality of this construction that uses twice the word בת (bat) or twice the word בן (ben) favors interpreting Anah to be the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite.
All this controversy could be avoided when we abandon the forced equality of the Hivites of verse 2 and the Horites of verse 20. See for a discussion on why this would probably be the superior solution our article on the name Horite.
🔼Etymology of the name Anah
The name Anah comes from the enormous Hebrew root group ענה ('ana):
There are four verbs of the form ענה ('nh), or perhaps one verb with four distinct usages:
Verb ענה ('ana I) means to answer, respond or correspond, and since in the old world time was considered a cycle, noun עת ('et) means time. Temporal adverb עתה ('atta) means now; adjective עתי ('itti) means timely or ready, and conjunction יען (ya'an) means on account of. Noun מענה (ma'aneh) means an answer and noun ענה ('ona) means cohabitation.
Verb ענה ('ana II) means to be busy or occupied with. Noun ענין ('inyan) means occupation or task, and noun מענה (ma'ana) means place for or agent of a task.
Verb ענה ('ana III) means to afflict, oppress or humble. Noun ענו ('anaw) refers to the poor, afflicted or needy. Noun ענוה ('anawa) means humility. Noun ענות ('enut) means affliction. Adjective עני ('ani) means poor or afflicted. Noun עני ('oni) means affliction or poverty, and noun תענית (ta'anit) means humiliation.
Verb ענה ('ana IV) means to sing.
For a meaning of the name Anah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Answer. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes An Answer or Answering. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer a possible translation but lists this name under ana IV, meaning to sing. It's remarkable that there is no noun meaning song used in the Bible, but perhaps this name might be it. The name Anah may also mean Song.