🔼The name Naioth: Summary
- From the verb נוה (nawa), to be a governmental palace.
🔼The name Naioth in the Bible
The name Naioth occurs only in one passage in the Bible, involving Saul chasing David. Since the book of Samuel was written long after the outcome of the story was known by everybody in the country, the author strewed his story with a hardy helping of obvious comic elements.
Naioth is the name of a village near Ramah, where Samuel and David went to hide from Saul, who was getting more and more crazy (1 Samuel 19:18 to 20:1; only in 20:1 this name is spelled נוות or Navoth). David had just killed Goliath of Gath and Saul took him into his house where he met and befriended Jonathan (18:1-2). Saul made David a sergeant (18:5), and Jonathan gave him his royal robe and armor (18:4), but when the local women began to sing (their rather silly song) about David's prowess and Saul's incompetence, Saul started to fear that David might one day rise up to rival him for the kingdom (18:8), and he became scared of him (18:12). Like a Biblical chase cartoon, Saul sought to capture David by pinning him to a wall (18:11), sending him to fetch a hundred Philistine foreskins (18:25), commanding his son and servants to kill him (19:1), pinning him to a wall again (19:10), and by sending assassins to his house (19:11).
When Saul heard that David was in Naioth, Saul sent his assassins. But they became overwhelmed by the Spirit of God and failed to get to the killing part. Saul sent another batch, but they too started prophesying. After a third batch lost, Saul went himself, and ended up in Naioth lying naked on the ground, prophesying too (19:24).
David may have blinked once or twice but then ran like the Roadrunner back to Jonathan.
🔼Etymology of the name Naioth
The name Naioth is a plural form of a noun taken from the verb group נוה:
There are either three separate verbs נוה (nawa), or one that simultaneously means (1) to be high or eminent, (2) to beautify, and (3) to be or be in an abode. If this cluster of assumed roots is indeed just one, it obviously deals with perfect societies, splendid palaces and seats of benevolent government. Particularly the third meaning is associated with shepherding, which relates to the idea of a king as shepherd of his people.
From the first meaning comes the noun נה (noah), eminency or distinction. From the third comes the noun נוה (naweh), abode, pasture, habitation, country or area of residence. This noun used as a verb means to dwell or abide. Used as adjective it means abiding. Noun נוה (nawa) means pasture or meadow.
The verb נאה (na'a) means to be beautiful, and is closely related to the verb נוה (nawa II), to beautify. Its derived adjective נאוה (na'weh) means beautiful.
For a meaning of the name Naioth, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Habitations. BDB Theological Dictionary lists the name Naioth under the root נוה (nwh III), submits that it possibly means Habitations but then declares this dubious for untold reasons.
A thoroughly amused Hebrew audience would probably not have shared BDB's doubts. Saul was the oaf king who didn't understand himself, God or the kingdom he was supposed to rule. David on the other hand was the beloved peace king, whose dynasty propelled Israel into its golden age. David was a man of the people, and the people were right there, under Saul's nose. David was everywhere, making things beautiful in the villages of the heights; Naioth of Ramah.
Note the obvious nod to decentralization: a society based on God's natural law does not have one earthly king or even one earthly center of political government. Instead, in a society based wholly on natural law, every person is wholly free and thus wholly responsible for his or her own life.