🔼The name Ashbel: Summary
- Flowing Forth
- From (1) the noun אש ('esh), fire, and (2) the verb בעל (ba'al), to be lord.
- From the verb שבל (shobel), to flow forth.
🔼The name Ashbel in the Bible
Ashbel's descendants, the אשבלי (Ashbelites) formed a sub-class in Benjamin and are mentioned only in Numbers 26:38.
🔼Etymology of the name Ashbel
The etymology of the name Ashbel is not immediately clear, but both Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) and BDB Theological Dictionary find the following most likely:
The name Ashbel may be a compilation of two elements, the first one being the noun אש ('esh) meaning fire:
The noun אש ('esh) means fire. Noun אשה ('ishsheh) describes a fire offering.
The second part of our name could be the same as Bel, which is the same as Baal:
The verb בעל (ba'al) means to exercise dominion over; to own, control or be lord over. The ubiquitous noun בעל (ba'al) means lord, master and even husband, and its feminine counterpart בעלה (ba'ala) means mistress or landlady.
God is obviously called 'lord' all over the Bible and the sin of the Baal priests (1 Kings 18:40) was not that they called upon some other deity but rather their incessant howling of the word 'lord' without any further responsibility or effects (see Matthew 7:21 and 11:4-5).
Another possibility is that the name Ashbel is related to that of Shobal, with a prosthetic א (aleph) as only difference:
The unused verb שבל (sabal) probably means to extend or go forth in a wavy fashion. Noun שבל (shobel) denotes a kind of flowing garment. Nouns שבלים (shibbelim) and שבלת (shibboleth) either refer to a flowing stream or to ears of grain. Nouns שבול (shebul) and שביל (shebil) mean way or path.
For a meaning of the name Ashbel, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Fire Of Bel, but another possibility would be Flowing Forth.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't offer an interpretation of the name Ashbel and NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes "having a long upper lip," presumably from a resembling name in some other language. To a Hebrew audience, the name Ashbel would not have meant that.