🔼The name Eder: Summary
- From the verb עדר (adar), to lack or fail, or rather the noun עדר (eder), a flock or herd.
🔼The name Eder in the Bible
The name Eder is part of a group of similar names that were pronounced slightly dissimilar (other names of this group are Ader and Edar). So slightly even that some sources don't even list different names and read Eder for all.
But the sure-Eders of the Bible are:
- A son of Mushi, son of Merari, son of Levi, son of Jacob, the arch-father of Israel (1 Chronicles 23:23)
- A town situated in the south of Judah (Joshua 15:21).
And then there is the curious village of Eder, or Edar as some translators insist. This Eder/Edar is spelled and pronounced exactly the same as the previous two, and it's a mystery why certain interpreters insist on a different notation.
Our village was situated in the territory of Judah, near Ephrath a.k.a. Bethlehem. When Jacob and his family were traveling from Bethel to Ephrath, Jacob's wife Rachel began to give birth to her second child, and died. Rachel was buried there and her son was called Benjamin. Israel journeyed on and the very next spot they camped was called Migdal-eder (מגדל־עדר; Genesis 35:21). Why interpreters insist on calling this place just Eder is also an unexplained mystery. Migdal-eder returns in Micah 4:8, but only the JSP calls it so and only Young speaks of Eder. All other translations speak of 'tower of the flock'.
The Septuagint omits Genesis 35:21 all together and the Vulgate speaks of Turrem gregis. But there are at least two Biblical names that also incorporate the word migdal, and the Vulgate transliterates them both (Migdal-El and Migdal-gad; see either of these names for a look at the word migdal, meaning tower). Still, the King James, the New American Standard and Young speak of the "tower of Eder". The New International Version, the Jewish Society Publication and Darby all speak of Migdal-eder.
🔼Etymology of the name Eder
The name Eder comes from the verb group עדר (adar):
The verb עדר (adar) means to lack or fail (or loiter in Arabic). Its odd derivative, the noun עדר (eder), describes a flock or herd — perhaps because a flock proverbially wanders after the shepherd and its members are prone to be picked off by predators.
This verb, or an identical second one, may also mean to hoe: to drag forth a tool and pick off weeds. Noun מעדר (ma'der) means a hoe.
It's not obvious which of the verbs yields our name but most commentators assume the lacking/loitering one. For a meaning of the name Eder, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Flock. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't translate our name but refers to the Arabic root meaning Loitering, Lagging. NOBSE Study Bible Name List lists four Eders and translates this name with A Flock.