🔼The name Hacaliah: Summary
- Darkened By Yah
- Wait Onto Yah
- From (1) the verb חכל (hakal), to be darkened, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
- From (1) the verb חכה (haka), to wait, (2) the particle ל (le), to or onto, and (3) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Hacaliah in the Bible
There is only once man named Hacaliah in the Bible, namely the father of Nehemiah. He is mentioned twice as such and has no actual role in the Bible (Nehemiah 1:1 and 10:1).
🔼Etymology of the name Hacaliah
The name Hacaliah consists of two elements, the final one being יה (yah), which is short for יהוה or YHWH. The origin of the first part has been somewhat disputed but the most obvious candidate is the identical verb חכל (hakal), to be darkened and particularly of eyes and due to wine:
The verb חכל (hakal) means to be darkened, and particularly to be darkened due to drinking wine. Adjective חכלילי (haklili) means dull or darkened, and noun חכלילות (haklilut) means dullness or darkness. Both these words apply to eyes after drinking wine.
Possibly because traditional commentators disapproved of the father of a Biblical hero to be associated with eyes darkened from wine, an alternative etymology was proposed from the verb חכה (haka), to wait:
The root חנך (hanak) deals with the beginning of discernment, which is the beginning of wisdom: discernment via taste, which is the first discernment and thus mode of wisdom a baby learns (hence the many Biblical metaphors that equate wisdom with food or milk).
The noun חך (hek) means mouth as the seat of taste (the more common word for mouth, namely פה, peh, emphasizes the mouth as orifice). From the noun חך (hek) comes the verb חנך (hanak), to "mouth," i.e. to inaugurate, train or dedicate. Likewise, adjective חניך (hanik) means trained or experienced. Noun חנכה (hanukka) means dedication.
Noun חכה (hakka) describes a fishing hook, or a hook that grabs a prey's jaw, or rather a prey's sense of taste. Perhaps accidentally similar, but perhaps not, the verb חכה (haka) means to wait or await for, and particularly to wait for sustenance. Often this verb's object is the Creator, or the sustaining insight in the Laws of the Creator.
Our name's central letter ל (l) was explained as the particle meaning to on onto:
The particle ל (le) means to or onto and may describe a physical or mental motion toward or a behavioral effort, an evolutionary one or express determination or purpose. The name of this letter, lamed, describes a cattle prod or goad.
This explanation is of course perfectly valid, since all Biblical names are like little mini poems and mean whatever they can mean, but he objection to the father of Nehemiah being named after wine-dulled eyes is not. Although the weakness of parents surely reverberates for three or four generations after (Exodus 20:5), no child is guilty of the sins of the parent and no child shares in the guilt of the parent (Ezekiel 18:20).
Furthermore, wine is a common Biblical metaphor for spirit and contrary to common perception, darkness in the Bible is very often very positive and the beginning — inauguration, if you will — of great new things: Genesis 1:2, 15:12, Numbers 12:1, Song of Solomon 1:5, Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 27:45.
For a meaning of the name Hacaliah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Darkness Of Yahweh and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has a spectacular Dark-Flashing Of The Lord.
BDB Theological Dictionary prefers the construction חכה ליה and translates it as Wait For Yahweh, although Wait Onto Yah would be more consistent, particularly when we understand that the name YHWH is not only reflective of God's unchanging character but also of man's waxing understanding of God's unchanging character (compare Romans 1:20 to Luke 2:52 and Matthew 5:48).