🔼The name Elim: Summary
- Protruders, Big Trees
- From the noun איל ('ayil), protruder, from the verb אלל ('alal), to protrude.
🔼The name Elim in the Bible
The name Elim belongs to a dreamlike oasis in the wilderness, with twelve springs of water and seventy palms (תמרים, see the name Tamar). The Israelites camped there right after the bitter waters of Marah incident, immediately following the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 15:27, 16:1, Numbers 33:9-10).
🔼Etymology of the name Elim
The name Elim is generally assumed to derive from the plural of the noun איל ('ayil), which would be spelled as אילים; it may be that this name stems from a time before the Hebrews added the primary vowels (such as the י, yod, prior to the masculine plural ם). The noun איל ('ayil) denotes something that sticks out or protrudes:
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 Elim, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes A Grove Of Oaks and adds "or palms". Elim was obviously in the desert and oaks don't grow in that kind of climate.
Likewise BDB Theological Dictionary declares: "אילם = place of terebinths or other great trees," and equates it with the name עילם, Elam of Genesis 14:1, which is really a completely different name.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Large Trees.