🔼The name Barzillai: Summary
- Ironlike, Iron Of Yah
- From the noun ברזל (barzel), possibly extended with יה (yah), the short version of the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Barzillai in the Bible
There are three men named Barzillai mentioned in the Bible:
- Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, who joined Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar in providing food and goods to king David and his men at Mahanaim, right after the Ahithophel affair during the revolt of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27). After Absalom's death, David and company began to return to Jerusalem and Barzillai accompanied them as far as the Jordan (19:31). There the aged Barzillai took his leave from David's company and sent his servant Chimham along in his stead (19:37). The "sons" of Barzillai the Gileadite remained welcome at the court until the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 2:7).
- Barzillai the Meholathite, the father of Adriel, the husband of Merab, daughter of king Saul (2 Samuel 21:8). Adriel and Merab's five sons were hanged by king David, as per request of angry Gibeonites.
- A priestly returnee from exile (Ezra 2:61, Nehemiah 7:63). This man had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and had assumed the family name. He was nevertheless counted among the people who could not prove their ancestry, which means that he was most likely exiled once again, to Samaria this time.
🔼Etymology of the name Barzillai
The name Barzillai comes from the noun ברזל (barzel), meaning iron:
The verb ברז (baraz) means to pierce, and it may have helped form the noun ברזל (barzel), meaning iron.
The noun ברזל (barzel) means iron but it's unclear where it came from and what it originally meant. To ancient Hebrew scribes it may have reminded of the compound ברזי־לי (b'razi-lay), meaning something like "in [this is] my wasting", or perhaps a combination of בר (bar), clean or pure, and זלל (zalal), to make light of.
The letter י (yod) upon which our name ends, may either create an adjective (ironlike), a possessive form (my iron), or it may be a remnant of יה (Yah), which is short for יהוה, which is the name YHWH. The adjectival form of names also serves as ethnonym, which means that the name Barzillai may also refer to the Barzillai, a tribe of Iron People.
For a meaning of the name Barzillai, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with the adjective and reads Of Iron. BDB Theological Dictionary, likewise, offers Man Of Iron.
Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) sees in the final yod a remnant of the name of the Lord and translates our name with Iron Of The Lord.