🔼The name Beth-arabah: Summary
- House Of Criss-Crossing
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb ערב ('arab), to criss-cross.
🔼The name Beth-arabah in the Bible
Beth-arabah is a city which originally served as a border marker for the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:6). It was situated in the wilderness of Judah (as opposed to the highlands or the south; Joshua 15:61).
When Benjamin's portion was assigned within Judah, Beth-arabah became theirs (Joshua 18:22).
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-arabah
The name Beth-arabah consists of two or three elements. The first part is identical to the common Hebrew word בית (bayit) meaning house:
The noun בית (bayit) means house. It sometimes merely denotes a domestic building, but mostly it denotes the realm of authority of the house-father, or אב (ab). This ab is commonly the living alpha male of a household, but may very well be a founding ancestor (as in the familiar term the "house of Israel"). The אב (ab) may also be a deity, in which case the בית (bayit) is that which we know as a temple.
In the larger economy, a house interacts with other houses. These interactions are governed by the אב (ab), or "father" and executed by the בנים (benim), or "sons": those people living in the house, irrespective of any biological relation with the אב (ab). The "sons" combined add up to אם ('em), which means both "mother" and "tribe".
The final part of our name is the same as the name Arabah, the feminine version of the name Arabia. All comes from the cluster of roots of the form ערב ('rb):
The root ערב ('arab) means to criss-cross or to traverse and covers multiple separate word groups. Noun ערב ('ereb) refers to the woof (the thing that zips over-and-under the warp when weaving). Noun ערב ('ereb) denotes a foreign group that intersects a native population and likewise noun ערב ('arob) denotes a swarm of invading insects.
Verb ערב ('arab II) means to take, give or exchange on pledge. Nouns ערבה ('arubba), ערבן ('erabon) and תערבה (ta'aruba) mean pledge. Noun מערב (ma'arab) refers to merchandise; articles of exchange.
Verb ערב ('arab III) means to be pleasing in the sense of rewarding or satisfying. Adjective ערב ('areb) means pleasing in that same sense.
Verb ערב ('rb IV) is probably the same as the first one and would most literally mean to be a nomad. Noun ערב ('arab) refers to the region now known as Arabia (i.e. "Nomadia"). The noun ערב ('arab) would literally mean nomad as does the ethnonym ערבי ('arabi), Arab or Arabian.
Verb ערב ('rb V) appears to describe the journey of the sun across the sky. Noun ערב ('ereb) means sunset or evening, and the derived verb ערב ('arab) means to become evening and secondarily, to become dark, black or gloomy. Noun מערב (ma'arab) means west or westward.
What verb ערב ('rb VI) may have meant isn't clear. Noun ערב ('oreb) means raven, i.e. a proverbial dark bird or else one that criss-crosses the land. Ravens are additionally associated with hearing; doves are with sight. Likewise the noun ערבה ('araba) means poplar possibly named after the patterns of its bark.
The letter ה (he) that precedes the final part may either be the definite article, or it is a particle that governs a motion towards: House On The Way To Arabah.
For a meaning of the name Beth-arabah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads House Of Desert and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has the similar House Of The Desert. BDB Theological Dictionary reads a curious House Of The Depression.