🔼The name Eshbaal: Summary
- Man Of The Lord
- Fire Of The Lord
- From (1) the noun איש ('ish), man, and (2) the verb בעל (ba'al), to be lord.
- From (1) the noun אש ('esh), fire, and (2) the verb בעל (ba'al), to be lord.
🔼The name Eshbaal in the Bible
Eshbaal is one of the sons of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33), and probably the same as Ish-bosheth (איש־בשת), who succeeded Saul as king of Israel, but who was defeated by David two years later. Eshbaal and Ish-bosheth are never openly equated, but the two names never appear side by side (which would prove that there are two different sons of Saul). Scholars assume that the relation between the names Eshbaal and Ish-bosheth is like that between the names Merib-baal and Mephibosheth — the two names of the certainly one son of Jonathan, son of Saul — namely that the baal-part of the original name, which refers to the ungod Baal, was exchanged for the word boshet, meaning shame.
🔼Etymology of the name Eshbaal
The name Eshbaal consists of two elements, the second one being בעל (ba'al), which also serves as the name of the familiar Canaanite deity Baal:
The verb בעל (ba'al) means to exercise dominion over; to own, control or be lord over. The ubiquitous noun בעל (ba'al) means lord, master and even husband, and its feminine counterpart בעלה (ba'ala) means mistress or landlady.
God is obviously called 'lord' all over the Bible and the sin of the Baal priests (1 Kings 18:40) was not that they called upon some other deity but rather their incessant howling of the word 'lord' without any further responsibility or effects (see Matthew 7:21 and 11:4-5).
The origin and meaning of the first element of the name Eshbaal is disputed. BDB Theological Dictionary and apparently NOBSE Study Bible Name List as well, radically assume that of our name only the baal-element was replaced and that the first element therefore had to stay the same. And so, to make Eshbaal correspond to Ish-bosheth, BDB and NOBSE derive the esh-part of Eshbaal from איש ('ish), which is one of a few words for man:
The verb אנש ('anash) appears to emphasize the weakness of the human individual and mankind's consequent tendency to clan up and have strength in numbers first and then in social stratification. It either means to be weak or even to be sick, or it swings the other way and means to be friendly and social. It yields the important noun אנוש ('enosh), man or human male individual who is weak yet social.
In the Bible, societies are feminine (and maternal) and although some scholars insist on a whole other but identical root, the noun אשה ('isha) means woman or wife. And again perhaps from a whole other root or perhaps the same one, the noun איש ('ish) means man, or rather man of; man in some specific function such as "man of war" or "man of the earth." It's also the common word for husband.
Since societies form around central fires (or the "purifying light" of wisdom, which is where the metaphor comes from), the noun אש ('esh), fire, may also derive from this verb.
Other scholars (Alfred Jones, and most of us here at Abarim Publications) see no reason why the esh-part of Eshbaal should be the same as the ish-part of Ish-bosheth. It isn't. The name Ish-bosheth is a word play on Eshbaal, just like Mephibosheth is a word play on Merib-baal, and just like the mephi-part isn't the same as the merib-part, so is the esh-part not the same as the ish-part.
The esh-part, namely, according to Alfred Jones and us here at Abarim Publications, is the noun אש ('esh), meaning fire:
The noun אש ('esh) means fire. Noun אשה ('ishsheh) describes a fire offering.
For a meaning of the name Eshbaal, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary read Man Of Baal. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Fire Of Baal.