🔼The name Elath: Summary
- From the noun אלה ('alla), terebinth, from the verb אלל ('alal), to protrude.
🔼The name Elath in the Bible
There's only once city with the name Elath (אילת) or Eloth (אילות or אלות) in the Bible, and that's the city built or rather repaired by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:2) in the territory of Edom (2 Chronicles 8:17). Apparently the city Elath had existed since at least the wandering years (Deuteronomy 2:8).
The name occurs eight times in the Bible, four times spelled with the ו (waw), and four times without. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes that El-paran (Genesis 14:6) is the same as Elath and Eloth, but there's no way to be certain about that either way.
🔼Etymology of the name Elath
The name Elath or Eloth is possibly an ancient version of the more modern (Biblically spoken) Hebrew word אלה ('alla), meaning terebinth. But it may also be a proper feminine plural of the same word:
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.
For a meaning of the name Elath, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with the plural option and reads Terebinths. BDB Theological Dictionary, complete as always, offers both possibilities: Lofty Tree or Trees collectively. NOBSE Study Bible Name List doesn't translate this name, strangely enough.