🔼The name Chesed: Summary
- As If It Were A Mountain/ Field / Protecting Spirit / Breast
- From (1) the prefix כ (ke), "like" or "as if," and (2) the noun שד (shed), breast, protecting spirit, or שדו (shadu), mountain, field.
🔼The name Chesed in the Bible
Chesed is the fourth son of Abraham's brother Nahor with their niece Milcah (Genesis 22:22). Nahor lived in Haran but was originally from Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:27-32). The Hebrew word for Chaldeans is Kashedim, which is the plural of Chesed. It seems that Nahor named his son after the people he came from.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Chesed
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names is so opposed to the idea that the Chaldeans could be descended from Chesed (because the Chaldeans are mentioned eleven chapters prior to Chesed, but see the discussion under the name Chaldeans), that he derives the two highly similar names — כשד and כשדים — along two completely different avenues.
Chesed, Jones says, comes from an unused and nowhere else mentioned root כשד, which has an equivalent in the cognate Arabic language, where it means to gain. Hence Jones translates the name Chesed with Increase.
The name Chaldeans, however, Jones insists, consists of two elements, the first being the common Hebrew particle כ (ke) meaning as if:
כ כי כה
The prefix כ (ke) means "as if" or "like." The particle כי (ki) means "in that," both in the sense of "because" and "when." The adverb כה (koh) means "thus."
The second segment, according to Jones, is the noun שד (shed), meaning demon:
The verb שדד (shadad) means to deal violently with, ruin or destroy. Noun שד (shad) or שוד (shud) means havoc, violence or devastation.
An identical verb, which in the middle ages was pointed slightly different, is שדד (sadad), which describes the harrowing of a field: to act violently upon a field. Whether formally related or not, the noun שדמה (shedema) means field, and nouns שדי (saday) and שדה (sadeh) do too, and may denote either a cultivated field or a wild one, where wild animals live.
Speaking of wild animals, the noun שד (shed) is a loan word but its adoption was probably lubricated by the similar words treated above. It describes a mythological creature, namely the Mesopotamian sedu, a kind of protecting spirit depicted as a winged bull, in essence not unlike the more familiar genius and daemon. Note the similarity between this word שד (shed) and the noun שד (shad), meaning havoc.
Slightly more surprising, a third identically spelled noun, שד (shad), describes the mammalian breast, whether human or animal. This noun is assumed to stem from an unused verb שדה (shadeh), meaning to moisten in cognate language, which is identical to the assumed verb that yields the nouns שדי (saday) and שדה (sadeh), meaning field, suggesting an emphasis on natural irrigation.
In cognate languages, these same nouns also mean [wet] mountain, and beside the link between a moist, fruitful mountain and a milk dispensing breast: milk is dispensed to infants, whereas the belief in supernatural bullies is a mark of an immature mind.
Hence for a meaning of the name Chaldean, Alfred Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads As It Were Demons.
Another possibility is that the second segment of the name Chesed comes from any of the above mentioned words for field.
Parallel to the calling of Abraham (who came from Ur of the Chaldeans) the tower of Babel is constructed and subsequently torn down. After her glory days under king Solomon, the surviving tribe(s) Judah (and Simeon) is adopted by the Babylonian empire. And finally, it seems that Ecclesia also grows up in Babylon, only to break free from it and leave it in shambles (Revelation 18:2).
The pun is that the word adam (man, human) comes from the word adamah, meaning field. The meaning of the names Chesed and Chaldean seems to be a reminder that any form of the Babylonian phenomenon is not what brings mankind forth: As If It Were A Field.