🔼The name Methushael: Summary
- Man Of God
- From (1) the noun מת (mat), man, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Methushael in the Bible
Methushael is the son of Mehujael, the son of Irad, the son of Enoch, the son of Cain (Genesis 4:18). That means that Methushael is the fourth generation after Cain. This is significant because God's curses tend to mellow out after four generations (Deuteronomy 5:9). Methushael's son is Lamech the First, and the latter became the father of those who live in tents and play instruments; both traits closely associated with the Tabernacle (Genesis 4:20-21).
🔼Etymology of the name Methushael
Traditionally the name Methushael is explained as follows:
The final part of the name is אל, El:
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.
And the first part is said to come from מת (mat), which is one of a few words to denote man or mankind, and used most often to indicate a male capable of combat. There is an obvious and grim connection with the word מות (mut), to die; corpse:
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.
However, in between mat and el stands the letter shin, which the traditional explanation ignores. But it is too dominant a letter to just show up and not alter meaning (such as is the case in some occurrences of waw, he and yod). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names thinks it comes from the word אשר ('asher) meaning to go straight on, but does not incorporate this idea in his final translation.
The שׁ as particle is interrogative: who, which, or where, what? It's also used as conjecture: that, because. Or to indicate the genitive. Reading a particle for שׁ the name becomes: I'm A Mortal; Where's God?
Another solution shows when we all together depart from the idea that every אל must relate to God. The word שאל (sha'al) means to ask, inquire, borrow, beg (see Saul). Derivatives: שאלה (she'la) means request, demand. שאול (she'ol), curiously enough is the famous word Sheol, meaning grave, pit, or in some applications, hell. And then there is the word מתי (matay), meaning when.
Methushael is a wonderfully poetic name with lots of meanings: Man Of God; I'm Mortal, Where's God?; Man Of Inquisition or Requested Man (the Man We Wanted). And it also means When Requested.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and NOBSE Study Bible Name List both read Man Of God.