🔼The name Athaliah: Summary
- Unclear but perhaps Yah Is Exalted, Taken Away By Yah
- From (1) the verb עתל ('atal), to be exalted or dealt violently with, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Athaliah in the Bible
The name Athaliah is assigned to one woman and two men in the Bible. The first Athaliah we meet is the granddaughter of king Omri of Israel, who was the father of king Ahab (1 Kings 16:29, 2 Kings 8:26). Athaliah's husband is her nephew, king Jehoram, their daughter is named Jehosheba and their son is named Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25-26), who was possibly named after his uncle Ahaziah, the son of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 22:51-52).
Queen-mother Athaliah has a handful of screws loose. When her son is assassinated by Jehu, she kills all the royal offspring, which would either be her nephews or her grandchildren or both, and rules the land herself (2 Kings 11:1-3). When seven year old Joash, the sole survivor, shows up six years later and his adjutants claim his throne, Athaliah is subsequently murdered (2 Kings 11:16).
This lady's name is spelled עתליה (Athaliah) in 2 Chronicles but in 2 Kings it is written as עתליהו (Athaliahu), which is essentially the same name.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Athaliah
The name Athaliah consists of two elements. The final part of the name is the appellative יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
About the first part of the name Athaliah the sources are in disagreement, and that's because the section עתל ('tl) doesn't occur in the Hebrew Bible:
The verb עתן ('atan) is not used in the Bible but it may be equivalent to an Arabic verb that means to deal violently with, and from which derives a word for lion.
The verb עתל ('atal) is equally mysterious, and may be a variant of עתן ('atan) and mean the same thing, or it may be cognate to an Assyrian verb that means to grow great or exalted.
And ultimately, these verbs may stem from an underlying idea that growing great and inflicting violence often coincides.
Alfred Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with the Arabic root meaning to handle violently, and reads Taken Away Of The Lord. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't offer a translation of the name Athaliah but points it toward the Assyrian verb that means to grow great. NOBSE Study Bible Name List agrees with BDB and reads Yahweh Is Exalted.