🔼The name Joel: Summary
- Yahweh Is Elohim, or The Lord Is God
- He Was Foolish, He Was Willing/Determined
- From (1) the divine name יה (yah), and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
- From the verb יאל (ya'al), to be foolish or determined.
🔼The name Joel in the Bible
The name Joel is among the most popular in the Bible, but the most famous one is, of course, the eighth century prophet Joel. His Book of Joel is one of the shortest in the Bible but his image of the relentless locust swarm is one of the most haunting and recognizable in Biblical Scriptures (Joel 1:4).
Besides the famous prophet, the following Joels are mentioned in the Bible:
- Samuel's first born son and brother of Abijah (1 Samuel 8:2).
- Two Kohathite Levites (1 Chronicles 6:36 and 2 Chronicles 29:12).
- A Gershonite Levite chief (1 Chronicles 15:7).
- A chief of Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:35).
- A chief of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:4).
- A chief of Gad (1 Chronicles 5:12).
- A chief of Issachar (1 Chronicles 7:3).
- A chief of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 27:20).
- One of David's mighty-men (1 Chronicles 11:38).
- A son of Nebo, who divorced his foreign wife during the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:43).
- A Benjaminite overseer (Nehemiah 11:9).
🔼Etymology of the name Joel
The name Joel is most commonly interpreted to be a combination of two elements. The first element is יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which is the commonly accepted abbreviated form of יהוה, which is YHWH, the Name of the Lord. This very short abbreviation of YHWH also occurs in the names Joab and Jochebed.
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 name Joel is the name Elijah reversed and means Yah Is El, or Yahweh Is Elohim, or The Lord Is God.
However, in cognate languages this name exists as well, but means something else. That something else also exists in Hebrew, namely the verb יאל (ya'al):
The root אלל ('alal) predominantly describes a protruding or sticking out. This may be positive (when one leads a collective), neutral (when one is a tree), or negative (when one fails convention). The latter sense in particular describes foolishness, or at least a failure to live up to cognitive standards or common codes of conduct.
Nouns אלון ('allon), אלה ('alla) and אלה ('elah) refer to oaks or terebinths but note the similarities with the demonstrative pronoun אלה ('elleh), "these," and אלה ('eloah) meaning god or God.
Nouns אליל ('elil) and אלול ('elul) mean worthlessness or a worthless thing (a thing that sticks out of the economy of useful things). Adjectives אויל ('ewil) and אולי ('ewili) mean foolish, and noun אולת ('iwwelet) means foolishness or folly. Noun אול ('ul) may mean belly or leading man.
Nouns אולם ('ulam) and אילם ('elam) mean porch. The former is identical to an adverb that means "however" or "but." Another adverb אולי ('ulay) means "perhaps."
Noun איל ('ayil), "protruder," refers in the Bible to a ram, a pillar, a chief and, yet again, a terebinth. Noun איל ('ayyal) means stag or deer — hence the panting deer of Psalm 42 also describes an ignoramus longing for instruction — and its feminine counterpart אילה ('ayyala) means doe.
The verb יאל (ya'al) means to be foolish, gullible or even simply compliant and pleased to go along in no particularly negative way.
The past tense forms of the two verbs יאל are identical to the name Joel (see for instance Exodus 2:21, Joshua 17:12, etc.). Hence the name Joel also means He Was Foolish, He Was Willing/Determined.
For a meaning of the name Joel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Is God. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Lord Of God, The Lord Is God.