🔼The name Massah: Summary
- Test, Proving
- From the noun מסה (massah), test, trial or proving, from verb נסה (nasa), to try or test, from the root נסס (nasas), which describes metallurgy.
🔼The name Massah in the Bible
The name Massah belongs to the place near Rephidim where Moses famously drew water from a rock after the Israelites tested YHWH (Exodus 17:7, Deuteronomy 33:8). The place at which this happened became endowed with two names, namely Massah and Meribah, which is a rarity in the Bible. The name Massah occurs without Meribah in Deuteronomy 6:16.
🔼Etymology of the name Massah
The name Massah is identical to the feminine noun מסה (massah), meaning test, trial or proving, from the verb נסה (nasa) means to try or test:
Verb נסס (nasas) is the parent verb of a vast array of words that all derive from metallurgy: (1) Impure ore is collected, heated up and smelted; (2) Impurities float up, are skimmed off and cast out; (3) The pure metal is collected, cooled off and congealed into usable ingots or mixed to produce alloys that are stronger than any individual metal.
Before religion became demagogic and science broke away from it, all theology focused on practical technology and natural science, and the purpose of all theology was to produce stronger peoples. The hotter engineers could make their fire, the purer they could make their metals, the stronger their weapons and tools would be and hence the more successful the people were.
Noun נס (nes) denotes a rallying banner or flag; an item to which a liquefied army (riled up soldiers in the disarray of battle) can congeal back into formation.
Verb נסה (nasa) means to try or put to the test: to subject something to activities that will demonstrate its qualities and range of abilities. Derived noun מסה (massah) means test or trial. This noun is identical to noun מסה (massa), a melting, derived from the verb מסס (masas), to melt.
Verb מאס (ma'as) means to reject or despise; the fate of slag and dross.
For a meaning of the name Massah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List has Testing, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads the paraphrased Temptation. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of our name but does confirm that it is identical to the noun מסה (massah), meaning test or trial.
Note the obvious connection between the testing of the Lord and the "melting" of the rock. Since the quest for knowledge is often compared to a "thirst" for knowledge, and the time of Moses was dominated by great advances in metallurgy (a nation's knowledge of metallurgy was directly proportional with its chances of survival), the portent of the story of Massah and Meribah goes far beyond that of a cute legend.
Also remember that the battle against Amalek was fought at Rephidim, and commemorated by the altar called YHWH-nesi, which is related to our name Massah.