🔼The name Anathoth: Summary
- Answers, Afflictions
- From the verb ענה ('ana), to correspond, be busy with, afflict or sing.
🔼The name Anathoth in the Bible
There are two men and one town named Anathoth in the Bible. The men named Anathoth are:
- A son of Becher, son of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 7:8). Although it's not specifically mentioned, it seems logic to assume that this Anathoth gave his name to the Benjaminite city Anathoth.
- One of the ratifiers of Nehemiah's sealed document (Nehemiah 10:19). This Anathoth is listed among the "leaders of the people," which means that he wasn't a Levite but we don't know which other tribe he was from.
The town named Anathoth was situated in the territory of Benjamin and given to the Kohathite Levites to live in (Joshua 21:18). Its greatest claim to fame is probably that it was the birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1), who also owned land there (Jeremiah 32:7-15). Another famous priest from Anathoth was Abiathar, who supported the usurper Adonijah and who was subsequently deposed and sent back to Anathoth by king Solomon (1 Kings 2:26, spelled only here as ענתת, although Jeremiah is similarly called הענתתי, or the Anathothite, in Jeremiah 29:27).
For untold reasons, Anathoth's glory dwindled and its reputation slumped. The prophet Isaiah foretells without restraint the horrors that would befall "wretched" Anathoth (Isaiah 10:30), and Jeremiah relates a message of revenge and slaughter from YHWH aimed at the men of Anathoth who planned to assassinate Jeremiah. The Lord tells that "a remnant will not be left to them, for I will bring disaster on the men of Anathoth" (Jeremiah 11:23). Still, both Ezra and Nehemiah count 128 men whose families originated in Anathoth and who made the journey back from the exile in Babylon (Ezra 2:23, Nehemiah 7:37). Nehemiah, however, additionally reports that an untold number of Benjaminites (not Levites) repeopled Anathoth after the return (Nehemiah 11:32).
Two more Anathothites are:
🔼Etymology of the name Anathoth
The name Anathoth looks like a plural form of a noun ענת, which could be construed as an alternate or older form of a noun ענה. And that noun would then come from any of the roots ענה:
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.
Some suggest that the name Anathoth is a plural form of the name Anat, which belonged to a widely popular feminine pagan deity, and that the name Anathoth would refer to a cluster of multiple temples devoted to that goddess, or that a plural form was used to express excess reverence. The multiple temple hypothesis seems the less attractive explanation, in part because of the Becherian precedent (why would Becher name his son after a cluster of temples?), and in part because no other collective of temples was known by the plural of the deity these temples enshrined. But he reverential pluralization of a deity's name is demonstrated in the name Asheroth, which is plural of Asherah, and perhaps even in the name Elohim, which is plural for Eloah (or perhaps El).
For a meaning of the name Anathoth, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with the verb ענה ('ana I), meaning to answer or respond, and reads Answers. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names takes our name from the same verb but appears to insist on making a distinction between an answer in the sense of a solution (of a problem or conundrum), and a response to a supplication. Hence Jones translates the name Anathoth as Answers To Prayers. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name beyond a reference to the goddess Anat.