🔼The name Bethesda: Summary
- House Of Kindness, House Of Mercy
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb חסד (hasad), to be kind.
🔼The name Bethesda in the Bible
The name Bethesda occurs only once in the Bible. It was the name of a pool near the Sheep Gate of Jerusalem, upon which an angel of the Lord periodically descended and stirred the water (John 5:2). When that happened, the first person to plunge into the pool would be healed of whatever affliction this person had. There were quite a few sick people laying around the pool waiting for the event.
One Sabbath, Jesus found a man there who had been suffering from a debilitating disease for thirty-eight years, and had trouble rushing to the pool because of his affliction. Jesus famously told him to take up his mat and walk away, and as he did he got yelled at by the Pharisees for carrying a mat on the Sabbath (John 5:10).
After some investigating it was established that it had been Jesus who had healed the man, upon which the Pharisees decided to persecute Jesus. When Jesus informed them that he was working because his Father was working, the Jews intensified their effort to have Jesus killed (John 5:18).
It may be that the stories of Jesus miraculously healing people at the pools of Bethesda and Siloam, and the subsequent disputes with the Pharisees, were also designed to serve as commentaries on the situation in Hierapolis.
🔼Etymology of the name Bethesda
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 is thought to derive from the Hebrew noun חסד (hesed), meaning kindness or fidelity:
The verb חסד (hasad) means to be good or kind. The important noun חסד (hesed) means loving-kindness or allegiance in a legally binding way. Adjective חסיד (hasid) means kind or godly.
For a meaning of the name Bethesda, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) read House Of Mercy.