🔼The name Gath-hepher: Summary
- Winepress Of Digging, Winepress Of Shame
- From (1) the noun גת (gat), winepress, and (2) the verb חפר (hapar), to dig.
🔼The name Gath-hepher in the Bible
The name Gath-hepher occurs twice in the Bible. In Joshua 19:13 it is mentioned as an eastern border point of the territory allotted to the tribe of Zebulun, and this places Gath-hepher firmly in the area called Galilee.
Gath-hepher's modest star rose to great heights when it became the home town of Jonah the prophet (2 Kings 14:25), and in the deliberately humorous gospel of John, the blundering Pharisees demonstrate their ignorance when they first don't recognize Jesus as the Christ, secondly their own man Nicodemus as a follower of Christ, and thirdly fail to remember that the prophet Jonah was from Gath-hepher in Galilee (John 7:52).
Note that in Joshua, our name is spelled גתה חפר (Gittah-hepher), with the ה (he) that marks a "motion towards," postfixed to the Gath-part, whereas in 2 Kings it's spelled גת החפר (Gath-hahepher), with the ה (he) prefixed to the hepher-part.
🔼Etymology of the name Gath-hepher
The name Gath-hepher obviously consists of two elements. The first part of our name is identical to the name Gath, which is the same as the noun גת (gat), meaning winepress:
The verb יגן (yagan) probably meant to beat or press, since the derived noun גת (gat) describes a wine-press.
The second part of our name is identical to the name Hepher and comes from either of the two verbs חפר (hapar/haper):
The verb חפר (hapar) means to dig, both in order to unearth something and to burry something. Hence this verb may be used both to describe (1) a quest for something wanted, and (2) a quest to obscure something unwanted.
The latter usage appears to have evolved into its own verb, namely חפר (haper), to be ashamed, again both because (1) something secret was exposed or (2) something embarrassing is sought to be covered.
The noun חפרפרה (haparpara) describes a kind of animal, probably a mole.
For a meaning of the name Gath-hepher, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names assume the existence of an unused noun derived from the verb חפר (hapar), meaning to dig. Hence NOBSE reads Winepress Of The Pit and Jones has Winepress Of The Well. BDB Theological Dictionary takes the hepher-part as an expression of the verb חפר (hapar), and translates our name with Wine-Press Of Digging.
It should be noted that the name Gath-hepher could also be taken to mean Winepress Of Shame.