🔼The name Esarhaddon: Summary
- Ashur Has Given A Brother
- Keenness Imprisoned, Swift Capture
- From the Assyrian term asur-ah-iddina.
- From (1) the verb אסר ('asar), to bind, and (2) the verb חדד (hadad), to be sharp, keen or swift.
🔼The name Esarhaddon in the Bible
The name Esarhaddon belongs to a king of Assyria, who reigned from 681 to 669 BC. He is briefly mentioned in two separate Biblical scenes. Both Isaiah and the Book of Kings report that king Sennacherib was murdered by Adrammelech and Sharezer in the temple of his deity Nisroch, and that his son Esarhaddon ascended the throne in his place (2 Kings 19:37 = Isaiah 37:38).
The other mention of the name Esarhaddon in the Bible is in the Book of Ezra, which tells that when the Jews were restoring the temple of YHWH in Jerusalem, certain folks (either Israelites, Samaritans or gentiles) who had been captured and deported by king Esarhaddon, demanded to be allowed to partake in the restoration works. Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the other leaders denied them this (Ezra 4:2, spelled without the maqqep).
King Esarhaddon died in 669, and was succeeded by his son Ashurbanipal. The importance of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles was playfully alluded to by Carl Sagan in his portentous novel Contact (later made into a wonderful film with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey). The benefactory but deadly ill engineer S. R. Hadden was named after Esarhaddon.
🔼Etymology of the name Esarhaddon
The name Esarhaddon, or rather the original Assyrian Asur-ah-iddina means something like Ashur Has Given A Brother (says BDB Theological Dictionary). Ashur was the primary Assyrian deity, and the ah-part is the same as the Hebrew word אח ('ah), meaning brother (see names such as Ahab and Ahijah). Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) agrees with the gift-part but translates the first section of our name with fire, and reads Gift Of Fire.
The Hebrew authors allowed themselves considerable freedom in transliterating the names of foreign kings, and often appear to have garbled these names to such an extent that they acquired a meaning in Hebrew that wasn't there before and which was rather like a miniature commentary. The Assyrian name Asur-ah-iddina was transliterated into אסר־חדן, which consist of two parts, the first one being an expression of the verb אסר ('asar), meaning to bind:
The verb אסר ('asar) means to bind or tie up. Nouns אסור ('esur), אסר ('issar), מסרת (masoret) and מוסר (moser) all mean bond or band. Noun אסיר ('asir) describes a prisoner (a bound one) and the similar noun אסיר ('assir) refers to a group of prisoners or their joined bond.
Verb מסר (masar) means to bind in the sense of to incriminate or to attach a charge, mission or misdeed to a person. As such it may be used to mean to deliver up or offer.
The second part of our name may seem to be derived of the verb חדד (hadad), meaning to be sharp or keen or even swift:
The verb חדד (hadad) means to be sharp or keen or even swift. Adjective חד (had) means sharp (mostly of swords) and adjective חדוד (haddud) means sharpened or pointed.
The verb חדה (hada) is similar to the previous, but appears to lean more toward keenness, swiftness or even gladness and resonance. In some cases it plainly means to rejoice. Noun חדוה (hedwa) means joy or gladness.
The ideas of sharpness and joyfulness meet in the noun חידה (hida), which means riddle; a verbal exercise meant to sharpen the mind and give joy in the process. Posing riddles was an important element of life in societies that were wisdom-based, which explains the many Biblical scenes that revolve around riddles. The denominative verb חוד (hud) means to pose a riddle.
Note the emphasis on collectivity in these words, as well as the principle of preservation of momentum that underlies both the mechanical process of resonance and social phenomena such as humor, fashion and even language itself.
All together, the name Esarhaddon appears to mean Keenness Imprisoned or perhaps Swift Capture, which could be seen as reminiscent of the name Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means Swift The Booty, Speedy The Prey, and which was designed to warn people for the imminent Assyrian invasion (Isaiah 8:3).