🔼The name Ithiel: Summary
- God Is With Me
- I Have Wearied Myself, O God
- From (1) the particle את ('et), with, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
- From (1) the verb לאה (la'a), to be weary, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Ithiel in the Bible
There are two different men named Ithiel in the Bible, or so it seems:
- A man descended from Benjamin, about whom no further details are known (Nehemiah 11:7).
- One of the two men to whom Agur addressed the writings now known as Proverbs 30. It's not clear whether Agur, Ithiel and Ucal (the other of the two addressees) are actually names or rather epithets. The authors of the Septuagint, Vulgate and most recently the Young Translation didn't think these terms were names and translated them.
🔼Etymology of the name Ithiel
Most commentators agree that the name Ithiel mentioned in Nehemiah 11:7 consists of two elements, the final one being אל (El), the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The first part of our name is thought to have come from the particle את ('et), meaning with:
The ubiquitous particle את ('et) usually marks the accusative (the subject of a sentence) but often has an unclear function. Sometimes it (or an identical second particle) indicates a close relationship between the words that surround it, and can be translated with "with" or "near."
The form את ('et) is also the base of the four second person pronouns, meaning "you": (אתה, you man; את, you woman; אתם, you men and אתן, you women).
The verb אתה ('ata) is closely similar to the masculine singular pronoun (you man) and means to come. It has no extant derivatives.
A fourth instance of the form את is the masculine noun את ('et), which denotes an iron cutting instrument like a ploughshare, mattock or axe head.
But in the case of Proverbs 30:1, the "name" Ithiel may not be intended as a name but as part of the narration. The אל-part is obviously still El, meaning God, but the first part (which is preceded by the common prefix ל, le, meaning to, towards or onto) is then thought to come from the verb לאה (la'a), meaning to be weary or grieved:
The verb לאה (la'a) means to be weary or grieved. Noun תלאה (tela'a) means toil or hardship.
For a meaning of the name Ithiel, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reckon Agur's Ithiel as personal name and translate it with God Is With Me.
BDB Theological Dictionary also appears to favor the name-theory and submits that Ithiel "probably" means With Me Is God. But BDB also mentions the other option, namely that Ithiel is not a name, in which case BDB would settle for I Have Wearied Myself, O God.
The Young Translation reads "I have wearied myself [for] God" instead of the name Ithiel in Proverbs 30:1.