🔼The name Ephrath: Summary
- From the verb פרה (para), to be fruitful.
- From the verb אפר ('pr), to be depleted.
🔼The name Ephrath in the Bible
The name Ephrath is an abbreviated form of Ephrathah (or Ephrathah is the expanded version of Ephrath) and is assigned to one town and one lady:
- Ephrath is the name of a city in Judah, famous for being the birthplace of Benjamin and subsequent death of Rachel (Genesis 48:7). This place is called Ephrathah in Genesis 35:16-19.
- Ephrath is also the name of one of the wives of Caleb, the son of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:19). In 1 Chronicles 2:50 and 4:4 she is called Ephrathah.
🔼Etymology of the name Ephrath
The name Ephrath probably comes from the verb פרה (para), meaning to bear fruit or be fruitful:
The verb פרר (parar) means to split, divide and usually make more, expand or multiply. This root belongs to an extended family that also contains פרץ (paras), to break (through), פרש (paras and parash), to spread out or declare, פרס (paras), to break in two or divide, and פאר (pa'ar) means to branch out or to glorify.
The Bible is not concerned with political goings on and only with the evolution of the wisdom tradition, and thus with the rise of information technology (from cave paintings to blockchain). That said: our word "science" comes from the Greek verb σξιζω (schizo), which means to split, divide and make more.
Verb פרה (para) means to bear fruit or be fruitful. Noun פרי (peri) means fruit in its broadest sense. Noun פר (par) means young bull and פרה (para) means young heifer. Note that the first letter א (aleph) is believed to denote an ox-head, while its name derives from the verb אלף (aleph), to learn or to produce thousands. The second letter, ב (beth) is also the word for house (or temple or stable). The familiar word "alphabet," therefore literally means "stable of bulls" or "house of divisions" or "temple of fruitful learning".
Noun פרא (para') is a word for wild donkey. The young bovines were probably known as fruits-of-the-herd, but donkeys in the Bible mostly symbolize lone wanderings and humility.
Noun פור (pur) means lot (hence the feast called Purim). Noun פורה (pura) denotes a winepress and פרור (parur) a cooking pot.
But our name also has a striking resemblance to the mystery verb אפר ('pr):
It's not clear what the unused verb אפר ('apar) might have meant but it's clearly not very positive and possibly has to do with being exhausted or depleted of inner strength and inherent merit.
Noun אפר ('eper) means ashes, which is what remains when all useful energy is extracted from a fuel. Noun אפר ('aper) means covering or bandage, which is what is applied over a limb when its inherent strength is broken.
For a meaning of the name Ephrath, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Fruitfulness. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Fruitful.