🔼The name Nahash: Summary
- Serpent, Bronze, Oracle
- From the noun נחש (nahash), serpent, bronze or oracle.
🔼The name Nahash in the Bible
The name Nahash occurs in the Bible twice (or three times) as a personal name, and one time as the name of a city:
- The full name of the city is Ir-nahash (1 Chronicles 4:12).
- The king of Ammon during the early years of Saul is called Nahash (1 Samuel 11:1). The Biblical record pictures him as not a very nice guy, but years later David seems to keep him in high regard (2 Samuel 10:2).
- Curiously enough, around the same time there is Nahash the father of Zeruiah and Abigail (2 Samuel 17:25), who elsewhere are reckoned daughters of Jesse and sisters of David (1 Chronicles 2:16). See the article on Jesse for a discussion of this conundrum.
- Lastly there is Nahash the father of Shobi, who appears to be a leader in Rabbah at the time of David (2 Samuel 17:27). But the Ammonite city of Rabbah had been conquered just years prior, and its citizens murdered in the most horrendous ways (2 Samuel 12:31). It seems odd to assume that a son of the deposed king would still rule it, and this Nahash is either someone else, or Shobi was a princely member of an Ammonite resistance movement that's otherwise not recognized.
🔼Etymology of the name Nahash
The name Nahash comes from the root group נחש (nhsh):
The most fundamental meaning of the root נחש (nahash) is that of intuitive knowledge and near-accidental skill. It describes an ability to achieve a great technological feat — particularly smelting bronze — but crucially without truly understanding what makes the magic happen: the fire or the prayer, the air blasted into the furnace or the zealous faith of the technicians.
Dictionaries commonly spread the following words out over four separate roots, but to the ancients, these words all expressed the same core meaning:
The noun נחש (nahash) is the Bible's most common word for snake. Snakes in the Bible always represent some kind of mental process, usually intuitive and usually impure or otherwise detrimental.
The identical verb נחש (nahash) means to divine or soothsay. Its derived noun, again identical, נחש (nahash) means divination or enchantment.
Either this same verb נחש (nahash), or an identical other one, also appears to have described the production of bronze. It's not used as such in the Bible but the following derivations are: Noun נחשת (nehoshet) refers to copper or bronze, or items made from bronze. Adjective נחוש (nahush) means bronze. And noun נחושה (nehusha) or נחשה (nehusha) means copper or bronze.
For a meaning of the name Nahash, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Serpent.