🔼The name Mahanaim: Summary
- Two Camps
- From the noun מחנה (mananeh), camp, from the verb חנה (hana), to settle down.
🔼The name Mahanaim in the Bible
Mahanaim is the name of a region that is mentioned from Genesis to 1 Kings. The site was named by Jacob, on his journey from Paddan-aram back to Canaan (Genesis 32:2). Later it was assigned to the Levites, specifically the family of Merari (Joshua 21:34-42). Mahanaim was briefly the capital of Israel during the momentary royalty of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul (2 Samuel 2:8).
🔼Etymology of the name Mahanaim
The name Mahanaim is a multiple form (or rather, a multiple form that means 'two of') of the word מחנה (mananeh), meaning camp. And that word comes from the verb חנה (hana), meaning to camp down or settle:
The verb חנה (hana) means to decline or camp down; to contract one's range of activities and settle in a secluded spot. Noun חנות (hanut) means cell. Noun מחנה (mahaneh) means camp, and noun תחנה (tahana) means encamping or encampment.
The odd one out is the noun חנית (hanit), which is one of a few words for spear. Why a word for spear derives from a verb that means to camp isn't clear, but perhaps a wandering warrior would thrust his spear into the ground to mark his flopping spot.
Right before Jacob names the region Mahanaim, he is met by angels of God. That motivates him to say, מחנה אלהים וה ("This is God's camp"), using the word מחנה (mananeh).
BDB Theological Dictionary, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names agree: the name Mahanaim means Two Camps. Jones adds Two Hosts, apparently assuming that a camp is full of people.