🔼The name Bezalel: Summary
- In The Shadow of God
- Onion of God
- From (1) the prefix ב (be), in, (2) the verb צלל (salal), to quiver, sink or grow dark, and (3) the word אל ('el), God.
- From (1) the noun בצל (basal), onion, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Bezalel in the Bible
There are two Bezalels mentioned in the Bible:
- One Bezalel is among those who divorced their foreign wives (Ezra 10:30).
- The other Bezalel is the artist who was chosen (actually: called by name) by God to create much of the tabernacle. He is teamed up with Oholiab (Exodus 31:2, 31:6).
🔼Etymology of the name Bezalel
Traditionally, this name is considered a combination that starts with the common Hebrew particle ב (be), meaning in, at or by:
Prefix ב (be) means in, within or by means of.
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.
And in between the beth and el there would be a derivation of the not so positive root group צלל (sll):
There appear to be at least two verbs צלל (salal): one means to ring like a bell, and the other means to be or become dark. How or whether these two relate isn't clear and ultimately up to anyone's poetic palate.
Noun צלצל (silsal) means a whirring or buzzing. The exact same noun צלצל (silsal) describes a fish-spear or harpoon and the highly similar noun צלצל (selasal) denotes a whirring locust. Plural nouns צלצלים (selselim) and מצלתים (mesiltayim) denote musical percussion instruments such as cymbals. Noun מצלה (mesilla) means bell.
Frequently used noun צל (sel) means shade or shadow and is often employed to describe the transitoriness of life (a mere shadow). Noun צלמות (salmawet) literally means the shadow of death and denotes a distressful and deep darkness.
A possible third identical verb צלל (salal) means to sink or submerge, although it may very well derive from the previous.
This way the whole name may mean any combination of the above, but favored is In The Shadow Of God. This term is subsequently explained to mean In The Protection Of God, but that's a rather curious take since in the Bible only the light of God protects and darkness signifies an absence (or receptivity) of light. Still, Bezalel's darkness coincides marvelously with the name of Bezalel's colleague Oholiab, whose name has a secondary meaning of Father's Shine.
The fun, however, continues:
The fragment בצל (basal) means to strip off and yields the identical derivation onion! Hence the name Bezalel also means God's Onion:
The unused verb בצל (basal) probably meant to strip off. Identical noun בצל (basal) may mean onion or may more generally refers to flower bulbs and buds. Reverence for flowers may have inspired the turban.
And if that wasn't enough, the fragment בץ (bos) means mire, as used in Jeremiah 38:22. Hence, combined with the particle ל (le), meaning to or towards, the name means Swamp To The Lord.
For a meaning of the name Bezalel, BDB Theological Dictionary, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names all read In The Shadow (Protection) of El / God.