🔼The name Ebal: Summary
- Heap of Barrenness, Bel Is Ruin
- From (1) the verb עוה ('awa), to bend or twist, and (2) either the name Bel or the verb בלה (bala), to become old or worn out.
🔼The name Ebal in the Bible
There are three Ebals in the Bible; two men and a mountain:
- The first Ebal is a son of Joktan (Genesis 10:28, spelled עובל), and Joktan was a brother of Peleg, who became the ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 11:10-26).
- The second Ebal is a son of Shobal a son of Seir (Genesis 36:23).
- And then there is a hill named Ebal in Canaan (Deuteronomy 11:29, Joshua 8:30). At some point in one of his sermons, Moses predicts that when Israel moves into Canaan, Mount Gerizim will be blessed but Mount Ebal will be cursed (Deuteronomy 11:29). Moses doesn't explain why that would be. Many years later, Joshua sacks Ai (which name is possibly related to the name Ebal) and to commemorate that, he builds an altar to YHWH on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30). The Israelites present themselves, and half of them stand in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal (8:33).
🔼Etymology of the name Ebal
The name Ebal may be related to the unused root עבל ('bl) of which the meaning is lost. The Arabic equivalent, however, means bulky or stout, says BDB Theological Dictionary.
Alfred Jones (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) thinks that the name Ebal consists of two elements. The first element, according to Jones, is the noun עי ('y), meaning ruin or heap of ruins, from the root עוה ('awa), meaning to bend or twist:
The verb עוה ('awa) means to bend or twist, usually with a bottom line or ruin or perversion. Noun עון ('awon) means iniquity or guilt. Verb עוה ('awa) means to commit iniquity of do wrong. Nouns עוה ('awwa), עי ('i) and מעי (me'i) mean distortion or ruin. Plural noun עועים ('iw'im) means a distorting or warping.
The second element of the name Ebal, according to Jones, comes from the verb בלה (bala), meaning to become old, worn out:
Verb בלה (bala) means to wear out, annul or use until worthlessness. Adjective בלה (baleh) means worn out. Noun בלוא (belo) describes worn out things or rags. Noun תבלית (tablit) means annihilation or destruction.
Adverb of negation בל (bal) means not. Noun בלי (beli) describes a wearing out, a destruction or a worthlessness. Noun בלימה (belima) meaning nothingness. Noun בליעל (beliya'al) means worthlessness.
Noun בלהה (ballaha) means terror or calamity, but some scholars insists that this noun stems from a second, yet identical verb בלה (bala II), to trouble. If this verb is not a whole other one, it evidently describes trouble of a courage draining and strength depleting nature.
For a meaning of the name Ebal, Alfred Jones reads Stone, Stony, Heap of Barrenness. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes a comparison with בל, Bel, the name of a Babylonian god (Jeremiah 51:44) but gives no interpretation of Ebal (which would be something like Bel Is Ruin). NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads To Be Bare, Stony.