🔼The name Methuselah: Summary
- When He Is Dead It Shall Be Sent, Man Of A Javelin
- From (1) the noun מת (mat), man, or מות (mut), death, and (2) the verb שלח (shalah), to send or let go.
🔼The name Methuselah in the Bible
Methuselah is the son of Enoch, who famously walked with God, and the father of Lamech the Second and the grandfather of Noah (Genesis 5:25). He is also the man with the longest life-span in the Bible (969 years). The Bible doesn't actually mention it but a little arithmetic reveals that Methuselah died in the year of the great flood. The question of whether he died of natural causes or drowned remains unanswered.
🔼Etymology of the name Methuselah
The name Methuselah consists of two elements. The first part is מת (mat), which is either one of a few words to denote man or mankind, and used most often to indicate a male capable of combat, or it comes from the similar verb מות (mut) meaning to kill or die:
The verb מות (mut) means to die or kill. Nouns מות (mawet), ממות (mamot), and תמותה (temuta) mean death. In a theology that operated perpendicularly upon that which worshipped life, death was venerated under the names Mot and Mawet.
The noun מת (mat) is a word for man, and particularly a man capable of combat and exerting death.
The second part comes from the verb שלח (shalah) meaning to send or let go:
The verb שלח (shalah) means to send; to send whatever from messengers to arrows. It may even be used to describe a plant's offshoots or branches.
Noun שלח (shelah) refers to some kind of weapon, apparently a kind of missile. Plural noun שלוחים (shilluhim) means a send-off; a sending away or parting gift. Noun שלוחה (sheluha) refers to a shoot or branch. Noun משלח (mishlah) describes an outstretching of one's hand (i.e. an undertaking, or referring to the place where the letting go takes place). Noun משלוח (mishloah) also means an outstretching or a sending. Noun משלחת (mishlahat) describes a discharge from service, or a deputation.
The noun שלחן (shulhan) means table. It may actually stem from a whole other but identical verb that originally described the skinning an animal and stretching the hide out to dry. Possibly helped by the previous verb, this outstretching of a hide became attached to the laying down of a blanket (or indeed a hide) in order to stall goods on it (like the elements of a meal). When someone invented a table on legs the word to describe it was lifted from the old custom of picnicking on a blanket: a stretcher-outer.
For a meaning of the name Methuselah, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads מות (mut) for the first part and translates the whole name with When He Is Dead It Shall Be Sent. NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary both read מת (mat) for the first part; NOBSE translates the whole name with Man Of A Javelin; BDB proposes Man Of The Dart.
Note that although a name that means Man Of A Javelin may seem a touch daft to modern ears, the ethnonyms Saxon and Frank both derive from words for a kind of weapon that served as a symbol for a high social status. See for a closer look at this our article on the Greek word κυριος (kurios).