🔼The name Azbuk: Summary
- Altogether Desolated
- Strength Emptied
- From (1) the verb עזב (azab), to forsake, and (2) בוק (bwq), to be empty.
- From (1) the verb עזז ('azaz), to be strong, and (2) בוק (bwq), to be empty.
🔼The name Azbuk in the Bible
The name Azbuk occurs only once in the Bible, in Nehemiah 3:16 where Azbuk is the father of a certain Nehemiah (not the famous one) who makes quite substantial repairs to the temple complex. Either this Nehemiah or his father Azbuk is an official of half the district of Beth-zur.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Azbuk
It's not immediately clear where this name comes from, but it's pretty sure that it consists of two elements.
The renowned scholar Gesenius takes the first element to come from the verb עזב (azab), meaning to leave or forsake:
The verb עזב ('azab) means to leave, forsake or lose. In the sense of leaving something in the care of someone else, it may even mean to entrust. Noun עזובה ('azuba) describes a forsaken place or desolation. Noun עזבון ('izzabon) appears to refer to wares or purchases; something "left" in the hands of the purchaser.
The second part of the name Azbuk, according to Gesenius, comes from the verb בוק (bwq), meaning to be empty, and which comes from the verb בקק (baqaq) also meaning to be empty:
Verbs בקק (baqaq) and בוק (boq) mean to be or become empty (of items, lands, etc.). Nouns בוקה (buqa) and מבוקה (mebuqa) both mean emptiness. Noun בקבק (baqbuq) means flask.
A second verb בקק (baqaq) means to be luxuriant and may either be imported from a cognate language or else refer to a proverbial wealth of bottles to empty.
There was probably also a verb בקה (baqa) that meant to search, scout out or examine, with a similarly spelled noun meaning gnat. Perhaps the link with the previous was accidental but perhaps the erratic flight of the gnat reminded observers of vainly criss-crossing an emptied land in search of something that was no longer there. Or perhaps the gnat was proverbial for something that required careful straining (see Matthew 23:24).
Hence, Gesenius thought the name Azbuk to mean Altogether Desolated.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names passes a polite nod to Gesenius, accepts the word בוק (bwq) but then chooses for the first element of the name the fertile verb עזז ('azaz), meaning to be strong:
The verb עזז ('azaz) means to be strong. Adjective עז ('az) means strong, mighty or fierce and adjective עזוז ('izzuz) means mighty or powerful. Nouns עז ('oz) and עזוז ('ezuz) mean strength, might or fierceness.
Noun עזניה ('ozniya) denotes some kind of bird of prey (this word may actually be a convenient import from another language) and noun עז ('ez) denotes a she-goat (this word may actually derive from a verb that means to be wayward or perhaps strong-headed).
Verb עוז ('uz) means to bring into refuge or to seek safety. Noun מעוז (ma'oz) describes a place or agent of safety.
Hence Jones reads Strength Emptied, i.e. a strong place depopulated.