🔼The name Hamutal: Summary
- My Father-In-Law Is The Dew
- From (1) חם (ham), father-in-law, and (2) טל (tal), dew.
🔼The name Hamutal in the Bible
There is only one Hamutal in the Bible, and she is the mother of kings Jehoahaz and Zedekiah of Judah (2 Kings 23:31, 24:18, Jeremiah 52:1). She is a daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah (not the famous prophet) and the wife of king Josiah (2 Kings 23:30).
Our name is spelled חמוטל (Hamutal) only in 2 Kings 23:31. In 2 Kings 24:18 and Jeremiah 52:1 it's spelled חמיטל (Hamital).
🔼Etymology of the name Hamutal
The name Hamutal consists of two elements, the latter one being the noun טל (tal), meaning dew:
The root טלל (talal) has to do with being small, thin or widely dispersed or spread. Noun טל (tal), means dew. Verb טלל (talal) means to overcast (with a roof or with mist or dew). Derived verb טול (tul), means to extend or disperse widely, and its noun טלטלה (taltela) denotes a spreading out. Noun טלה (taleh) describes the young of sheep, goats or deer: lambs and fawns, and the verb טלא (tala') describes the patterns of spots spread out on a fawn. The plural noun טלאים (tal'im) collectively describes young ones or spotted ones.
The first part of the name Hamutal may be the word חם (ham), meaning either hot or father-in-law:
The verb חמם (hamam) means to be hot and is sometimes used to describe mental agitation. Nouns חם (hom) and חמה (hamma) mean heat. Adjective חם (ham) means hot. The noun חמן (hamman) denotes a kind of mysterious small pillar (perhaps a device?).
The verb יחם (yaham) also means to be hot, but mostly in a mental sense: to be exited or angered. The noun חמה (hema) mostly refers to a severe mental "burning": anger or rage.
The verb חמה (hmh) is not used in the Bible, but in cognate languages it means to surround, guard or protect. Perhaps this verb has nothing to do with the previous and only accidentally looks similar, but perhaps it ties into the fact that natural open fires aren't very warm and smelting metals require sophisticated ovens. Noun חם (ham) means father-in-law and its feminine equivalent, חמות (hamot), means mother-in-law — and note that the Trojan theme of the "girl" kept in the city of her forceful lover is very common in classical literature. Noun חומה (homa) describes a protective wall.
The noun חום (hum) describes a color or pattern of coloration of sheep and goats. It's not clear whether this pattern resembled sparks, fire or enclosures, or perhaps that this word in not related to the previous.
Noun חמת (hemet) means waterskin and may derive from a wholly different verb. Still, the verb נהר (nahar) means both to flow (of water) and to shine (of light) and a waterskin filled with water is not unlike a kiln containing a very warm fire.
The first part of the name Hamutal may be the adjective חם (ham) meaning hot. But that would give this name a meaning of Hot Dew, and that's most likely incorrect. More likely is a kinship with the identical word חם (ham) meaning father-in-law.
The whole name thus means My Father-In-Law Is The Dew. Whatever poetic or other image the Hebrews had with this name is unclear, but that there must have been something is strongly argued by the existence of the similar name Abital, meaning My Father Is The Dew.
For a meaning of the name Hamutal, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a timid (and ultimately incorrect) Kinsman Of Dew. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads an evenly deviated Akin To The Dew. BDB Theological Dictionary states "meaning dubious; perhaps, if Kethib is right, My Husband's Father Is The Dew", and the Kethib is a collection of difficult or improbable spellings in the Hebrew Scriptures. The companion called Qere offers possible substitutes.