🔼The name Diblah: Summary
- Fig Cake
- From the noun דבלה (debela), fig cake.
🔼The name Diblah in the Bible
The name Diblah occurs only once in the Bible. It goes with some location but we don't know where it would have been located. The prophet Ezekiel mentions it in reference to an unidentified barren wilderness, which would be less desolate than Israel after it met the wrath of YHWH (Ezekiel 6:14).
The text reads דבלתה, which means "toward Diblath," which in turn is an older spelling of what would be a more modern Diblah (דבלה). Older translations (Septuagint, Vulgate, KJV, Darby, Young) tend to print Diblath here but younger versions (NAS, NIV, JSP, ASV) go with Diblah.
🔼Etymology of the name Diblah
The name Diblah seems to be related to the noun דבלה (debela), meaning fig cake:
The noun דבלה (debela) refers to a lump or cake of pressed figs and probably stems from an unused verb דבל (dabal) that meant to collect or stump together.
For a meaning of the name Diblah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Rounded Cake, but note that the specification "rounded" is not represented or even implied by this name.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names simply states Cake, which disappointingly omits the fig part.
BDB Theological Dictionary lists the name Diblah under the root דבל but declares that this mystery town is none other than the oft mentioned city of Riblah. (רבלה). Note that Diblah is spelled with a ד (daleth) while Riblah is spelled with an ר (resh).
To an untrained eye these letters appear nearly indistinguishable and confusion of the two could be expected. To anyone who handles Hebrew frequently enough to be assigned copying duty (which would be someone who had certainly heard of Riblah), the letters ר and ד are clearly distinct. A Hebrew scribe mistaking the ר of Riblah for a ד would be the equivalent of Mavis Gallant accidentally bemoaning roots in Oubec, or Oscar Wilde erroneously celebrating flowers in Iondon.
But on the other hand, why would Ezekiel refer to an otherwise unmentioned place (which indicates that it wasn't very noteworthy)? His sermon was meant to install the fear of the Lord in his audience, and referring to the "wilderness of Dripville" doesn't seem very effective.
A solution to all this confusion would be to assume that Ezekiel is not referring to an extensive wilderness towards a town that nobody's hear of , but that he employs some kind of agricultural term: that what the land looks like when all the figs are harvested, pressed and processed. Such a situation would result in a very clear image in the minds of the locals.
In addition to this, the fig tree is the first biological tree mentioned in the Bible (following the trees of life and of knowledge of good and evil), the leaves of which Adam and Eve used to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). The fig tree is also a commonly accepted symbol of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8). Perhaps Ezekiel's image of the "wilderness towards the fig cake" is the same image that Jesus called upon when he cursed a fig tree into perpetual infertility (Matthew 21:19).