🔼The name El-paran: Summary
- Protruding Glory, Oak Of Paran
- From (1) the noun איל (ayil), oak, and (2) the verb פאר (pa'ar), to glorify.
🔼The name El-paran in the Bible
The name El-paran is first of all rather poorly transliterated, as it now appears to contain the name El, meaning God, which it doesn't; El is spelled אל. A more proper transliteration of our name would be Ayil-paran.
But, even as poorly transliterated, the name El-paran occurs only once in the Bible, namely in the story of the War of Four Against Five Kings, where it serves as the southernmost extent of the realm of the Horites (Genesis 14:6).
Most scholars appear to be charmed by the idea that El-paran is the same as the city known by the names Elath and Eloth, but that's no more than conjecture.
🔼Etymology of the name El-paran
The name El-paran obviously consists of two elements. The first part of our name is the word איל (ayil), which denotes something that sticks out:
The root אלל ('alal) predominantly describes a protruding or sticking out. This may be positive (when one leads a collective), neutral (when one is a tree), or negative (when one fails convention). The latter sense in particular describes foolishness, or at least a failure to live up to cognitive standards or common codes of conduct.
Nouns אלון ('allon), אלה ('alla) and אלה ('elah) refer to oaks or terebinths but note the similarities with the demonstrative pronoun אלה ('elleh), "these," and אלה ('eloah) meaning god or God.
Nouns אליל ('elil) and אלול ('elul) mean worthlessness or a worthless thing (a thing that sticks out of the economy of useful things). Adjectives אויל ('ewil) and אולי ('ewili) mean foolish, and noun אולת ('iwwelet) means foolishness or folly. Noun אול ('ul) may mean belly or leading man.
Nouns אולם ('ulam) and אילם ('elam) mean porch. The former is identical to an adverb that means "however" or "but." Another adverb אולי ('ulay) means "perhaps."
Noun איל ('ayil), "protruder," refers in the Bible to a ram, a pillar, a chief and, yet again, a terebinth. Noun איל ('ayyal) means stag or deer — hence the panting deer of Psalm 42 also describes an ignoramus longing for instruction — and its feminine counterpart אילה ('ayyala) means doe.
The verb יאל (ya'al) means to be foolish, gullible or even simply compliant and pleased to go along in no particularly negative way.
The second part of our name is the same as the name Paran, which derives from the root פאר (pa'ar), meaning to glorify:
The verb פאר (pa'ar) means to glorify. Noun פאר (pe'er) refers to an ornate headdress, like a turban. The more abstract noun תפארה (tip'ara) means beauty or glory.
It seems that our verb's most essential meaning is that of branching out or even to diversify into a spectrum of glorious nuances. Noun פארה (po'ra) means branch (of a tree or vine). The denominative verb פאר (pa'ar) would literally mean to branch but in practice describes a progression in the direction in which a branch grows (rather than the reverse). Noun פארור (par'ur) appears the describe a spectrum of facial expressions.
For a meaning of the name El-paran, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Oak Of Paran. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes Terebinth (or Palm?) Of Paran, but how BDB reads a palm into this name is a mystery; the word for palm is תמר (tamar; see the name Tamar).
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names translates both ends of the name and suggests Terebinths (or Turpentines) Abounding In Foliage.
Here at Abarim Publications we doubt that a place in a scorching desert would be named after a lushly endowed oak and feel that a more appropriate translation of our name would be Protruding Glory, or something like that.