🔼The name Ezion-geber: Summary
- Backbone Of A Man, Foundation Of Human Essence
- From (1) the verb עצה ('asa), to form inner strength, and (2) the noun גבר (geber), man.
🔼The name Ezion-geber in the Bible
Ezion-geber was a town in the region of Seir or Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. We hear first of Ezion-geber as Israel camped there on the journey through the wilderness (Numbers 33:35-36). When Israel was instructed to not provoke the sons of Esau, who lived in Seir, they passed beyond them and away from the Arabah road, Elath and Ezion-geber, and onto Moab (Deuteronomy 2:8; only here spelled עצין גבר).
Much later, king Solomon had a fleet of merchant ships built at Ezion-geber, which set of for Ophir to obtain gold (1 Kings 9:26, 2 Chronicles 8:17, only here spelled with a maqqep: עציון־גבר). Later still, the mostly-good king Jehoshaphat allied himself with the wicked king Ahaziah of Israel, and tried to reproduce Solomon's fleet at Ezion-geber in order to trade with Tarshish (1 Kings 22:48, 2 Chronicles 20:36). But the prophet Eliezer, the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah, informed Jehoshaphat that his alliance with Ahaziah made YHWH decide to destroy the fleet. And so the ships "were broken and could not go to Tarshish".
🔼Etymology of the name Ezion-geber
The name Ezion-geber obviously consists of two elements. The first part is a noun derived from the verb עצה ('asa):
Verb עצם ('asam) speaks of a skeletal structure that (a) lies hidden beneath an obvious surface, and (b) provides the invisible inner strength that keeps the whole in shape. Noun עצם ('osem) means might or skeleton. Noun עצמה ('osma) means strength. Noun עצם ('esem) means bone but may also be used to refer to one's whole body. Adjective עצום ('asum) means mighty or numerous. Noun תעצמה (ta'asuma) is a plural and intensive form meaning might but a whole lot of it.
Our verb may also mean to shut or close, predominantly of eyes, and presumably in order to review one's inner mental structures. Noun עצמות ('asumot) appears to refer to the "bones" of one's reason, the certainties upon which all creativities are grafted.
Like the previous, the verb עצה ('asa) also means to shut and its sole Biblical occurrence also speaks of closing one's eyes in order to hatch plans in one's heart: to review or form one's inner and structural strength. The very common noun עץ ('es) means tree (whose fruits proverbially show its "heart"). Collectively, trees are known as עצה ('esa). The similar noun עצה ('aseh) describes the backbone of an animal.
Obviously, the Bible is not concerned with the history of political power and solely with the evolution of the wisdom tradition and thus information technology (from cave paintings to the alphabet to blockchain). That means that very few references to wood and trees in the Bible — from the trees of Paradise to Noah's ark, Abraham's oaks, the cedars of Tyre and even the cross of Christ — should be expected to actually be about trees.
Probably a by-form of the previous, the verb עוץ ('us) means to counsel or regard with deep inner contemplation.
The waw-nun extension is a common way to create a noun from a verb that actually represents an object (rather than a concept).
The second part of our name is identical to the name Geber, and to the noun גבר (geber), meaning man:
The verb גבר (gabar) means to be strong or mighty or to prevail. Noun גבר (geber) is one of a few words for man, perhaps comparable to our words "guy" or "dude". Adjective or noun גבור (gibbor) means mighty or strong or valiant man. Noun גבורה (gebura) means strength or might. Noun גביר (gebir) refers to an alpha male: a lord or master, and the feminine equivalents are גבירה (gebira) and גברת (geberet), mistress or queen.
For a meaning of the name Ezion-geber, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a rather unnecessary Backbone Of A Giant and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has The Backbone Of A Man. BDB Theological Dictionary does not translate our name and lists it under a wholly separate root עצה that's dedicated solely to our name. Then BDB invites a comparison to an Arabic name or word which denotes a land abounding with a certain tree.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that Ezion-geber is not so much some inconsequential village on the way of some roaming hoard of legendary patriarchs at a time when the whole world was on the move, but rather a brilliantly discussed station of mankind's journey onto the knowledge of the Creator (by studying creation; see Romans 1:20).
We moderns are who we are because we think in nouns (that's called nominal reasoning) and that's because we have the rare ability to give names to things (elephants and dolphins do too; dogs not so much). The people who gave us the story of Ezion-geber knew this, which is why they emphasized that Adam gave names to the animals (Genesis 2:19-20), which ultimately resulted in the formation of Eve, the "mother" of all living — and "mother" is off course a people; a large group of individuals who somehow share one identity.
Israel, as is clear to all, gave the world vowel notation and that combined with the consonantal alphabet of the Phoenicians, rendered humanity its never decaying library of wisdom, science and ultimately the internet and blockchain. The union of the wisdom tradition of Israel and Phoenicia is celebrated in the Bible as the Temple of YHWH, which was built by Hiram and Solomon, who also constructed the initial large merchant fleet at Ezion-geber.
How Ezion-geber exactly fits into the majestic story of man's great journey may not be immediately clear to some readers, but it's quite clear that it has to do with information technology.