🔼The name Elealeh: Summary
- God Has Ascended
- From (1) the word אל ('el), God, and (2) the verb עלה ('ala), to ascend.
🔼The name Elealeh in the Bible
The name Elealeh belonged to a settlement of modest dimensions on the east side of the Jordan, which was probably Moabite, and which was annexed by the tribe of Reuben along with its more famous neighbor Heshbon and some other towns (Numbers 32:3).
The Reubenites fortified and expanded it, and possibly gave it its Biblical name of Elealeh (Numbers 32:37). Note that typically only in this latter reference, our name is spelled with a final aleph (אלעלא), although it's not clear what the function of this alternative (possibly Aramaic) spelling might be.
Settling the lush country east of the Jordan may have seemed a wonderful idea at the time, but the trans-Jordan tribes were the first to be deported when the larger empires got going. The prophet Isaiah foretold the invasion of Assyria and counted Elealeh and Heshbon now among the cities of Moab which would be overrun (Isaiah 15:4 and 16:9). Much later, Jeremiah foresaw the invasion of Babylon, and again counted Heshbon and Elealeh among the Moabite victims (Jeremiah 48:34).
🔼Etymology of the name Elealeh
The name Elealeh consists of two elements, the first one being אל ('el), the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The second part of our name comes from the verb עלה ('ala), meaning to go up or ascend:
Root עלל ('alal) describes to go up, or to make to go up.
Verb עלל ('alal I) means to repeatedly deal harshly with someone lower or weaker. Noun עוללות ('olelot) means a gleaning and the denominative verb עלל ('alal) means to glean. Nouns עלילה ('alila), עליליה ('alilya), מעלל (ma'alal) and תעלולים (ta'alulim) describe acts of wantonness or repeated self-indulgence: acts of being spoiled.
Hence noun עולל ('olel) means child and the denominative verb עלל ('alal II) means to act like a child (Isaiah 3:12). Verb עלל ('alal III) means to insert or thrust in. Noun על ('ol) means yoke, and (rather grim) noun עליל ('alil) means furnace or crucible.
Verb עול ('ul I) means to feed an infant. Noun עול ('ul) describes a suckling; a very young child. Verb עול ('ul II) means to deviate from or act unjustly (to be childish, but in an ethical sense). Nouns עול ('awel) and עולה ('awla) mean injustice, unrighteousness, and denominative verb עול ('ul) means to act wrongfully. Nouns עויל ('awil II) and עול ('awwal) mean unjust one and may simply refer to a young child.
The ubiquitous verb עלה ('ala) means to go up or ascend, and particle על ('al) denotes any kind of elevation or motion towards someone or something and is commonly translated as "on" or "upon". Noun and adjective עליון ('elyon) means high(est) or upper. Adjective עלי ('illi) means upper. Noun עליה ('aliya) refers to a roof chamber. Preposition מעל (ma'al) means upward, on top of, or above. Noun מעלה (ma'ala) refers to that what comes up, i.e. thoughts. The identical feminine noun מעלה (ma'ala) means step or stair. Noun עלה ('ola), meaning ascent or stairway and may be used to denote a whole burnt offering. Noun מעלה (ma'ala) means ascent. Noun מעל (mo'al) describes a lifting.
Noun עלה ('aleh) refers to a tree's leafage. Noun עלי ('eli) refers to a pestle or crucible. Noun תעלה (te'ala) describes a water-course and the identical noun תעלה (te'ala) means healing.
For a meaning of the name Elealeh, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads God Has Ascended and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes the elegant but a touch overly elaborate Whither God Ascends. BDB Theological Dictionary suggests God Doth Ascend but adds the signature question mark to indicate that neither this nor any other interpretation would meet with academic consensual approval. A Hebrew audience, however, would scarcely be bothered with that kind of rigor and readily read any of the above into our name.