🔼The name Azel: Summary
- From the verb אצל ('asal), to approximate.
🔼The name Azel in the Bible
The name Azel is applied to one man and one location (called Azal by older translations of the Bible). Azel the man was a son of Moza of Benjamin, who in turn had six sons himself (1 Chronicles 8:37, 9:43). Nothing further is known about this man.
Azel the location is an otherwise unheard of place presumably close to Jerusalem, at the foot of the far side of mount Olivet (Zechariah 14:5). In his troubling prophecy concerning the final battle, the prophet Zechariah foretells YHWH to fight against the nations that he gathered against Jerusalem. While doing so, his feet will stand on Mount Olivet, which will split from top to bottom and from east to west and the halves will move away from each other, towards the north and the south. This will result in an enormous valley which will reach onto Azel, and through which God's people can flee, out of the besieged city, clear through the valley and off to wherever.
It's not clear whether Azel is actually a name. Jerome, who wrote the Vulgate translation of the Bible, didn't think so and printed a translation (namely ad proximum). It's a bit strange that Zechariah refers to a place that nobody else mentions, but some scholars propose that Azel is the same as Beth-ezel mentioned by Micah (Micah 1:11), which would come in handy if that place was mentioned by anyone else, which it isn't.
But whether Azel is a real place probably depends on whether YHWH is actually going to split the physical mount Olivet, because the benefits don't seem to warrant the costs (an operation like that would require the release of enormous amounts of energy, which would probably not benefit any refugees) and even if he will, would it be important where the physical valley ends? And what happens when we get to Azel?
Here at Abarim Publications we like to think that during the final battle, the Lord will shepherd his people toward himself and not toward some vague hamlet where the valley ends. The Lord will be standing upon mount Olivet, which he will split, so that we can come to him and nowhere else.
🔼Etymology of the name Azel
The name Azel (if Zechariah meant it as a name) comes from the root אצל ('sl), which has to do with being joined or being proximate:
Unused verb אצל ('sl) probably meant to join. Noun אצל ('assil) means a joint or joining.
Preposition אצל ('esel) means beside and denominative verb אצל ('asal) means to approximate or disintegrate — i.e. to move toward a position just next of a solid state. Noun אציל ('asil) describes an item, condition or status that sits just next to another (greater, better, higher) item, condition or status.
For a meaning of the name Azel, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names take the detour via the above mentioned Arabic verb that means to be rooted, conclude that this must denote folks (and places) of established pedigree and read Noble. Here at Abarim Publications we find that very dubious. We side with Symmachus, Jerome, A. Kohler, C.H.H. Wright and others, and feel that Zechariah was speaking of nearness. Our particular take on this nearness is that it is nearness to God; really the only safe place to be during a global military conflict. Hence we translate the name Azel with Proximity [To God].