🔼The name Nahshon: Summary
- Serpent, Bronze, Oracle
- From the noun נחש (nahash), serpent, bronze or oracle.
🔼The name Nahshon in the Bible
There's only one Nahshon in the Bible, and he is quite famous. Nahshon was the son of Amminadab and the brother of Elisheba, the wife of Aaron (Exodus 6:23). Apparently, Amminadab was of the tribe of Judah, because Nahshon became the representative and military leader of Judah at the time of the first census of Israel (Numbers 1:7, 2:3).
Judah's prominence (due to Jacob's curses on Reuben, Simeon and Levi; the three older brothers of Judah) is demonstrated by Nahshon being the first to dedicate his tribe's gifts at the new altar (Numbers 7:12), and the first to lead his tribe out when the camp was disassembled (Numbers 10:14).
Nahshon's grandson Boaz married Ruth of Moab, and their son, Obed became the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:21, 1 Chronicles 2:12). And since David was a legal ancestor of Jesus the Nazarene, Nahshon also appears in the genealogy of Christ (Ναασσων; Naasson — Matthew 1:4, Luke 3:32).
🔼Etymology of the name Nahshon
The origin of the name Nahshon lies somewhere in the following root cluster נחשׁ (nahash):
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.
Our name Nahshon is formed by applying the familiar ון (waw-nun) extension, which personifies or localizes whatever the core of the name is taken to mean.
For a meaning of the name Nahshon, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Enchanter, and demands rather hysterically that the enchanting done by "the Gentiles of the old world" had to do with snakes.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name Nahshon but does list it under the root נחש (nhsh I), where the snake-words come from. If we were to boldly extrapolate BDB's suggestion, the name Nahshon would mean something like Snake-Guy.
Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) makes no suggestion as to where the name Nahshon might come from but submits Diviner as its translation.
The otherwise mostly complete and often correct NOBSE Study Bible Name List leaves the meaning of our name curiously blank.