🔼The name Elizaphan: Summary
- God Hides, God Has Protected
- From (1) the word אל ('el), God, and (2) the verb צפן (sapan), to hide or store.
🔼The name Elizaphan in the Bible
There are two men named Elizaphan in the Bible, although one of them was also known as Elzaphan (אלצפן, which is similar but spelled without the central י, yod). The men named Elizaphan are:
- A son of Uzziel, who was a son of Kohath and brother of Amram, the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Exodus 6:22, spelled אלצפן). When Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire" to YHWH and were subsequently killed, Moses instructed Elzaphan and his brother Mishael to drag the bodies away (Leviticus 10:4). By the time the Lord ordered the census of the Levites in the wilderness, Elizaphan (henceforth spelled אליצפן) had become the family head of the Kohathites (Numbers 3:30). The family of Elizaphan had become an autonomous order by the time of king David (1 Chronicles 15:8) and remained as such until at least the time of king Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:13).
- A son of Parnach and the leader of the tribe of Zebulun at the time the wandering years came to an end (Numbers 34:25).
🔼Etymology of the name Elizaphan
The name Elizaphan 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 names comes from the verb צפן (sapan), meaning to hide or store up:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or Coney (rabbit).
For a meaning of the name Elizaphan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads God Has Concealed. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has God Hides. And BDB Theological Dictionary suggests God Has Protected.