🔼The name Atroth-shophan: Summary
- Hidden Crowns, Surrounded By Rock Badgers, Range Of Surveillance
- From (1) the noun עטרה (atarah), crown, from the verb עטר (atar), to surround, and (2) the noun שפן (shapan), rock badger.
🔼The name Atroth-shophan in the Bible
It's not clear whether Atroth-shophan is actually a Biblical name, or two names (Atroth and Shophan) accidentally combined. It (or they) occur(s) only once, in a list of names of the cities built (or fortified) by the tribe of Gad (Numbers 32:35). In this list the names are preceded by the particle of conjunction ו (waw) and the untranslatable particle את ('at). Because this ואת (wa'et) is missing in front of the -shophan part, and also because the highly similar name Ataroth was already mentioned in the preceding verse, it's probably okay to conclude that the -shophan part doesn't constitute a separate name but is a specification of the Atroth-part.
The New American Standard and the Jewish Society Publication speak of Atroth-shophan, the New International Version has the similar Atroth Shophan, Darby has Atroth-Shophan, and the American Standard Version has Atrothshophan. The King James Version and the Young Translation, however, both read "And Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer".
🔼Etymology of the name Atroth-shophan
The name Atroth-shophan obviously consists of two parts. The first part is a plural form of the noun עטרה (atarah), meaning crown:
The verb עטר ('atar) means to surround. Noun עטרה (atarah) means crown and denominative verb עטר ('atar) means to coronate.
The second part is the same as the noun שפן (shapan), which denotes a kind of rock-dwelling creature:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or coney.
The whole name Atroth-shophan means something like Surrounded By The Rock Badger, Hidden Crowns or Range Of Surveillance. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) reads Crowns Of Shophan, invites the reader to check out his article on Shophan and then forgoes making an entry for that name. But Jones does treat the similar name Shaphan, which he translates with Coney.
Neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor BDB Theological Dictionary offers an interpretation of Atroth-shophan.