🔼The name Beth-arbel: Summary
- House Of God's Ambush
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, (2) the verb ארב ('arab), to ambush, and (3) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Beth-arbel in the Bible
The name Beth-arbel occurs only once in the Bible, and that in a rather obscure reference. The prophet Hosea foretells a tumult to arise among the people of Judah and Ephraim and the destruction of their fortresses the way Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel (Hosea 10:14).
It's not clear who this Shalman might have been, but he might be the same as the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, and he might also be a certain king Shalamanu of Moab, who is mentioned on an inscription commissioned by Tiglath-pileser III.
The town called Beth-arbel may or may not be the same as Arbela in Galilee, as mentioned in 1 Maccabees 9:1 and by Josephus in Antiquities XII.xi.1.
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-arbel
The name Beth-arbel consists of 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 second part of our name comes from the verb ארב ('arab), meaning to lie in wait or ambush:
The verb ארב ('arab) describes a sudden emergence out of a safe place, mostly in order to execute an attack. Noun ארב ('ereb) refers to a lying in wait. Nouns ארב ('oreb) and ארבה ('orba) mean ambush or trickery, and מארב (ma'arab) describes a place or agent of trickery. Noun ארבה ('aruba) describes an escape hatch or window.
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
For a meaning of the name Beth-arbel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads House Of God's Ambush and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has the similar House Of The Ambush Of God. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret the name Beth-arbel.