🔼The name Ephah: Summary
- Gloom, Covering
- From the noun עיפה ('epa), gloom, from the verb עוף ('up), to use wings or cover.
🔼The name Ephah in the Bible
The name Ephah is applied to both men and women in the Bible:
- A woman named Ephah is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:46. She is a concubine of Caleb (not the famous friend of Joshua but the other Caleb, the son of Hezron) and the mother of Haran, Moza and Gazez.
The male Ephahs are:
🔼Etymology of the name Ephah
The name Ephah comes from the Hebrew root group עוף ('up):
The root עוף ('up) reflects the idea that in nature wings arose not with the objective to fly but rather with the objective to protect. Creatures that used their arms to protect their young attained an advantage over creatures that didn't, and eventually discovered that their desire to protect their young gave them the ability to fly. This is also the reason why angels have wings; not to fly with but to protect with.
The verb עוף ('up) essentially means to use wings. Obviously this results in our verb to mostly mean to fly or fly away, but once it means to be dark (which is what happens when wings cover chicks). Noun עוף ('op) denotes creatures that have wings: birds and insects. Noun עפעף ('ap'ap) means eyelid; the "wing" that covers the eye and thus causes darkness. Noun עיפה ('epa) means darkness. Nouns מועף (mu'ap), מועף (ma'up) and תעפה (teupa) mean gloom.
Verbs עיף ('ip) and יעף (ya'ep) mean to faint, or "go dark" in a consciousness sort of way. Adjective עיף ('ayep) means faint or exhausted. Adjective יעף (ya'ep) means weary of faint. Noun יעף (ye'ap) means weariness or faintness.
An identical but unused verb יעף (ya'ep) exists in cognate languages with the meaning of to ascend, and note that creatures that protect their young don't merely end up being able to rise up into the sky, but more importantly, they also ascend on a scale of success and prominence. It's no coincidence that birds are revered in all cultures. The derived noun תועפה (to'apa) does occur in the Bible and means eminence.
The name Ephah appears to be identical to the noun עיפה ('epa), used by Isaiah to mean gloom. But the fundamental meaning of this word seems to be covering.
What the original name-giver meant to say with the name Ephah is not clear, but taking into account the full compass of the root, it means both Volant and Darkling, or even more fundamental: Covering. In that sense, the name Ephah reflects somewhat the same idea as the name Lot.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List translates this name with Dark One; Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Darkness.