🔼The name Aphek/Aphik: Summary
- Control, Restraint, Discipline
- From the verb אפק ('apak), to hold or restrain.
🔼The name Aphek/Aphik in the Bible
The name Aphek belongs to a significant city, although some scholars have proposed that there were multiple, all located in each other's vicinity. Here at Abarim Publications, we surmise that even though the name may have been attached to several different settlements, the name Aphek was rather proverbial for the place where enemy armies collected in order to stage an attack on Israel.
In the New Testament, the military garrison of Antipatris was built on the site of Aphek, implying an identical function.
Aphek was a place near Jezreel and Mount Gilboa, and was initially conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12:18). It was included in the territory of Asher, near Israel's northernmost border and close to Phoenician Tyre (Joshua 19:30). The chaos that would ensue after the conquest was in part ascribed to Asher having failed to drive the Canaanite natives from their cities, including Aphik (here spelled אפיק, Aphik, for undisclosed reasons; Judges 1:31).
The Philistines gathered at Aphek to fight the Israelites who were camped at Jezreel (1 Samuel 4:1). Since they were losing the battle, the Israelites retrieved the Ark of the Covenant from the tabernacle at Shiloh, which appears to have been situated a mere day's run away (1 Samuel 4:12). The Ark was promptly confiscated by the enemy, but was returned seven tumultuous months later. Sometime after, the Philistines mustered again at Aphek prior to the Battle on Mount Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan fell (1 Samuel 29:1).
Several centuries later, the Arameans under king Ben-hadad mustered at Aphek to attack Israel (1 Kings 20:26, 20:30). Though massively outnumbered, the Arameans lost from the Israelites, but king Ahab failed to execute Ben-hadad and Aram kept pestering Israel until YHWH, through the prophet Elisha, foretold that Israel would defeat and destroy Aram at Aphek (2 Kings 13:17).
Evidently, there was also a city named Aphek to the east of Israel, on the border of the territory of the Amorites (Joshua 13:4).
🔼Etymology of the name Aphek
The name Aphek derives from the verb אפק ('apak), meaning to hold in control, to contain or restrain; the variant Aphik is identical to the noun that means channel, pipe or tube:
The verb אפק ('apaq) means to control or restrain, mostly of feelings and emotions. Its sole derivation is the noun אפיק ('apiq), which describes a channel, conduit, tube or pipe: anything that confines a streaming liquid and lets it flow downhill without spilling and without going anywhere but its designed destination.
Note that the Hebrews regarded the natural world and the world of cognition as self-similar, with a kind of mental hydrological cycle as obviously fundamental to the world of learning: see our article on the noun νεφελη (nephele), meaning cloud.
For a meaning of the name Aphek, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Strength, Fortress. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Strength, Fortified City. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes: perh. Enclosure, Fortress.
Here at Abarim Publications we disagree with these interpretations, partially because Hebrew has plenty better words to describe fortresses and strongholds, but more so because the term Aphek is used in the Bible as almost synonymous with the pending assault of a marshalling and mustering army. No invading army would muster at an existing fortress and thus under the watchful eye of the enemy defense force, but rather in some ravine or otherwise secluded natural place. But beside that, mustering an army is not simply about gathering a lot of people, but rather about clipping a lot of people of their natural tendency to follow their own urges and their own hearts, and having them act as one united mass. In that sense, our name expresses the core fundament of language, and thus of science and any sort of complex society that is always based on general law (algorithms) rather than private feelings.
Our name speaks of accumulating a critical mass, or rather a critical level of complexity. It has to do with installing soldiers in their grid, or discipline in their minds. It means Control or Restraint or Discipline.