🔼The name Meholathite: Summary
- Of Sickness
- Of A Sad Song
- Of Dancing
- From the noun מחלה (mahaleh), disease, from the verb חלה (hala), to be weak.
- From the noun מחלת (mahalath), which possibly denotes a kind of sad song.
- From the noun מחולה (mehola), dance, from the verb חול (hul), to writhe.
🔼The name Meholathite in the Bible
The name Meholathite is an adjective, and most probably an ethnonym, which describes someone from a place called Meholah or Meholath. But neither of these names occur in the Bible; it's simply not mentioned, as many more towns and settlements must be. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names), however, insists that Meholathite describes someone from Abel-meholah. This is of course possible, but no real proof exists.
The ethnonym Meholathite occurs twice in the Bible, but each time it describes the same man: Adriel, son of Barzillai, who was given Merab the daughter of king Saul for a wife (1 Samuel 18:19). But before she became Adriel's wife, Merab had been promised to young David (1 Samuel 18:17). David at first shied away from so much honor, but nevertheless married Merab's younger sister Michal. That marriage went sour, as was evidenced by Michal's mocking of her husband (2 Samuel 6:20), and when the Gibeonites demanded the retaliative execution of Saul's kin, David readily surrendered the five sons of Merab and Adriel to be hanged (2 Samuel 21:8).
🔼Etymology of the name Meholathite
It's not directly clear where the name Meholathite comes from, although a Hebrew audience would have quickly noticed that Meholathite is the name Mahalath with the letter י (yod) attached to it. Thus a Hebrew audience, especially one sensitive to contextual parity, would have likely associated our name with the noun מחלת (mahalath), possibly meaning sickness, entreaty or sad song:
The verb חלל (halal) means to pierce. Adjective חלל (halal) means (fatally) pierced. Noun חלה (halla) denotes a kind of donut. Noun חלון (hallon) describes a deliberate hole in a wall for ventilation and illumination. Noun חליל (halil) denotes a holed musical instrument like a flute or pipe, and the denominative verb חלל (halal) means to play the pipe. Noun מחלה (mehilla) appears to refer to a kind of geological depression or hollow comparable to a cave.
Special or fancy items were typically not damaged in any way, and piercing or otherwise compromising or altering items demonstrated their commonness or profaneness. Noun חל (hol) means profaneness or commonness. Adjective חלל (halal) and noun חלילה (halila) both mean profaned. The noun תחלה (tehilla) means beginning or first, which seems to argue that a whole new thing can only be brought about when an old way or old situation (no matter how highly regarded) is pierced and profaned.
Verb חלה (hala) means to be skewered in the sense of to be weak, sick or wounded. Noun חלי (holi) means wound or sickness. Noun מחלה (mahaleh) means disease.
Perhaps a whole other verb חלה (hala) means to appease or entreat, although entreating and piercing may be considered similar actions. Noun מחלת (mahalath) is a kind of song, perhaps a piercing, entreating affair, or perhaps some profane ditty, a song about common things, or perhaps even a song that was typically meant to be altered or build upon or expanded at any artist's discretion.
Perhaps a whole third verb חלה (hala) may have spoken of adorning, although most adorning was obviously achieved by piercing holes in things to hang them up. Prior to the invention of glue, items such as beads and brooches were attached by merit of strings and bores. Nouns חלי (hali) and חליה (helya) refers to ornaments and jewelry.
Similar to the first of the verbs חלה (hala), verb חלא (hala') means to be sick or diseased. Plural noun תחלאים (tahalu'im) means sickness(es) or disease(s).
Perhaps a whole other verb חלא (hala') may have meant to defile. It's not used in the Bible but it would explain the noun חלאה (hel'a), rust or filth.
But perhaps others would have understood our name to have come from the verb חול (hul), meaning to whirl or writhe, and particularly with the derived noun מחולה (mehola), meaning dancing:
- Verb חול (hul I) denotes a whirling in circular motions. It comes with quite a cluster of derivatives, most notably the noun חל (hol), meaning sand; the noun חל (hil), meaning pain so bad that it makes one writhe (specifically childbirth); the noun חל (hel), which denotes a (circular) rampart, and the nouns מחול (mahol) and מחולה (mehola), which describe (whirling) dances.
- Verb חול (hul II) means to be strong, and the important derived noun חיל (hayil) means might.
- A by-form of the previous: the verb חלם (halam I) means to be strong.
- Verb חלם (halam II) means to dream, and its derived noun חלום (halom) means a dream.
These curious parallels suggests that the Hebrews saw dreaming as something cyclic; see our full dictionary article on these words for a closer look at dreams in the Bible. Also note the similarities in form with the חלל (halal) cluster.
The moniker The Meholathite, being an adjective, could be surmised to mean The Diseased (One) or The Sad Singing (One), or even The Dancing (One).
None of the sources used actually dares to translate the name Meholathite. NOBSE Study Bible Name List explains it as "a native of Meholah", but doesn't feature an entry for Meholah. As stated above, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names refers to Abel-meholah, and translates that name with Meadow Of Dancing (taken from the noun מחולה, mehola). BDB Theological Dictionary gives up all together and lists our name alphabetically under the letter מ (mem).