🔼The name Caleb-ephrathah: Summary
- Fruitful Dog
- From (1) the noun כלב (keleb), dog, and (2) the verb פרה (para), to be fruitful.
🔼The name Caleb-ephrathah in the Bible
The name Caleb-ephrathah occurs only one time in the Bible. It's the place where Hezron, the father of Caleb (not the famous one), passed away (1 Chronicles 2:24). Caleb's wife was named Ephrath, and it's reasonable to assume that our town was named after them.
It may be that Caleb-ephrathah is the same as Bethlehem-ephrathah (Micah 5:2), and later just Bethlehem of Judah, as Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) dictates, but there's little evidence for that.
🔼Etymology of the name Caleb-ephrathah
The name Caleb-ephrathah obviously consists of the two names Caleb and Ephrathah.
The name Caleb comes from the noun כלב (keleb), meaning dog:
The noun כלב (keleb) means dog, but it's not clear what verb it comes from, and thus, essentially, how a dog was seen. But perhaps this verb spoke of the rise of domesticated dogs: when the most willing among wolves became feral dogs, and the most willing among those entered into human captivity. Another word that may derive from this same mystery verb is the noun כלוב (kelub), which describes a basket with fruit or a cage with birds.
And since the pedigree of these words is missing, one may be forgiven to note a resemblance with the particle כ (ke), meaning 'like' or 'as if,' and the noun לב (leb), meaning heart, understanding or courage (the noun לבי, lebi literally means "heart-having" and described the lion). That way the word כלב (keleb = dog) could, somewhat creatively, be understood to mean 'as if it has a heart' or 'as if it understands.'
Across the ancient world, feral canines were regarded with great disdain. In the eyes of humans, canines' obvious cunning served mostly to sneak into camp in the night and purloin provisions and take off either laughing or loudly complaining. Domesticated dogs were appreciated for their willingness to serve, but their lowly origins and were never forgotten and their obvious lack of refinery served many a metaphor for low functioning humans.
And the name Ephrathah probably comes from the verb פרה (para), meaning to bear fruit or be fruitful:
The verb פרר (parar) means to split, divide and usually make more, expand or multiply. This root belongs to an extended family that also contains פרץ (paras), to break (through), פרש (paras and parash), to spread out or declare, פרס (paras), to break in two or divide, and פאר (pa'ar) means to branch out or to glorify.
The Bible is not concerned with political goings on and only with the evolution of the wisdom tradition, and thus with the rise of information technology (from cave paintings to blockchain). That said: our word "science" comes from the Greek verb σξιζω (schizo), which means to split, divide and make more.
Verb פרה (para) means to bear fruit or be fruitful. Noun פרי (peri) means fruit in its broadest sense. Noun פר (par) means young bull and פרה (para) means young heifer. Note that the first letter א (aleph) is believed to denote an ox-head, while its name derives from the verb אלף (alpeh), to learn or to produce thousands. The second letter, ב (beth) is also the word for house (or temple or stable). The familiar word "alphabet," therefore literally means "stable of bulls" or "house of divisions" or "temple of fruitful learning".
Noun פרא (para') is a word for wild donkey. The young bovines were probably known as fruits-of-the-herd, but donkeys in the Bible mostly symbolize lone wanderings and humility.
Noun פור (pur) means lot (hence the feast called Purim). Noun פורה (pura) denotes a winepress and פרור (parur) a cooking pot.
The name Caleb-ephrathah means something like Dog Of Fruitfulness or Fruitful Dog.