🔼The name Eliphal: Summary
- God Has Set Apart, God Has Discerned
- From (1) the word אל ('el), God, and (2) the verb פלל (palal), to discern.
🔼The name Eliphal in the Bible
The name Eliphal occurs only once in the Bible. According to the Chronicler, Eliphal the son of Ur is one of David's mighty-men (1 Chronicles 11:35). The list of mighty-men also occurs in the Book of 2 Samuel, but there are some discrepancies between the two. In 2 Samuel there is no Eliphal son of Ur, but about where that name would be expected there is a Eliphelet (אליפלט) son of Ahasbai.
Most commentators believe that Eliphal the son of Ur is the same as Eliphelet son of Ahasbai but very few propose a reason for these differences. It may be that either Ur or Ahasbai is not the male parent but a more remote ancestor. It's perfectly possible that the authors of 2 Samuel and Chronicles chose to refer to different ancestors because, perhaps, at the time of writing the ancestor was better known than the male parent of this man.
It's also quite possible that Ur was not a man but the city from whence Eliphal came. Eliphal is mentioned among a cluster of men who are known by epithets that reflect their ethnic origins.
🔼Etymology of the name Eliphal
The name Eliphal 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 could obviously be a truncated form of פלט, but as-is it appears to be kindred to the verb פלל (palal), meaning to pray, discern or assess:
Root פלל (palal) is all about distinguishing and discerning, and often emphasizes representation of something unseen or not present. It's frequently used in the sense of to entreat or pray on someone's behalf.
Noun תפלה (tepilla) means prayer. Noun פליל (palil) describes an inspector or umpire and noun פלילה (pelila) refers to the place at which an umpire operates; a judge's office. Adjective פלילי (pelili) means "for a judge" or "to be judged" and noun פליליה (peliliya) means verdict or assessment. Noun פול (pol) means beans (and was probably imported but fits right in).
Verb פלה (pala) means to be distinct or separated. Pronoun פלני (peloni) refers to "a certain person/place."
Verb פלא (pala') means to be extraordinary. Nouns פלא (pele') and מפלאה (mipla'a) refer to extraordinary things or deeds. Adjective פלאי (pil'i) means extraordinary.
Verb אפל ('pl) means to disappear, depart or set (of the sun). Nouns אפל ('opel), אפלה ('apela), מאפל (ma'apel) and מאפליה (ma'pelya) mean darkness. Adjective אפל ('apel) means gloomy. Adjective אפיל ('apil) means late or belated (i.e. long unseen).
Verb נפל (napal) means to fall (down, down to, into or upon). The plural form נפלים (napalim) literally means 'fallen ones' or 'settled ones'.
Noun נפל (nepel) refers to an abortion or untimely birth. Noun מפל (mappal) describes that what falls. Nouns מפלה (mappala) and מפלה (mappela) mean ruin, and noun מפלת (mapplet) refers to a ruined thing or a falling.
The letter י (yod) that ties the two elements together could belong to the verb, which then becomes active. Or it goes with El and forms "El of".
For a meaning of the name Eliphal, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary read God Has Judged. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes God The Judge, but this interpretation does not do justice to the central yod.