🔼The name Migdal-el: Summary
- Tower Of God
- From (1) the noun מגדל (migdal), tower, from the verb גדל (gadel), to become strong, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Migdal-el in the Bible
Migdal-El is a fortified city in the area of Naphtali (Joshua 19:38). It's mentioned only once in the Old Testament and possibly once in the New Testament (as Magdala or Magadan in Matthew 15:39), but it's fame rose to dazzling heights when an assumed inhabitant named Mary associated herself with Jesus, and became known as Mary of Migdal-el, or Mary Magdalene.
🔼Etymology of the name Migdal-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.
The first part is מגדל (migdal), which is generally translated with tower, from the verb גדל (gadel), meaning to become strong or great:
The verb גדל (gadel) means to become strong or great, particularly by combining many ordinary elements into a big strong strand or collection of some sort.
The noun מגדל (migdal) or מגדול (migdol) literally describes a place or agent for greatness. It's the word for tower, and a tower is not only a big strong thing consisting of many bricks, it also formed the center of a community around which all houses and all activity unfolded. From their tower people kept lookout over the community's territories, and launched offensives when the community was attacked. A tower could carry a fire and from it folks trumpeted signals. Towers drew its people from wherever they might roam. Over time they developed into central storage houses, banks and seats of government. Towers are buildings around which the greatness of a people forms and in which it becomes manifested.
Participle or adjective גדל (gadel) means a becoming great or growing up. Noun גדל (godel) means greatness or pride. Plural noun גדלים (gedilim) refers to tassels or festoons made from twisted strands. The very common adjectives גדול (gadol) and גדולה (gadola) mean great. Noun גדולה (gedulla) means greatness or great one.
Many Bible enthusiasts like to view the gospels as unedited snapshots of history, but it's likely that the authors had enough freedom to craft the characters according to their literary or even symbolic roles in the narrative. It takes no great leap of the imagination to recognize that the role of the literary character of Mary Magdalene may have to do with a recovery from either pride or misplaced trust, but read our article on the name Mary for all the details.
For a meaning of the name Migdal-El, NOBSE Study Bible Name List, BDB Theological Dictionary and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names all read Tower Of God.