🔼The name Orpah: Summary
- Drip, Cloud, Neck, Mane, Submitted
- From the verb ערף ('arap), to droop.
🔼The name Orpah in the Bible
Orpah is the Moabite wife of Chilion, the son of Naomi and Elimelech of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:4; see 3:10). She's also the sister in law of Ruth, who was married to Mahlon. When the men die in Moab, Naomi moves back to Israel and Ruth goes with her. Orpah stays in Moab and disappears from the Biblical stage. In Israel, Ruth marries Boaz and becomes the mother of Obed, the grandmother of Jesse and the great-grandmother of king David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ.
🔼Etymology of the name Orpah
The name Orpah comes from the verb ערף (arap). The added letter he is a common feminization form:
The verb ערף ('arap) means to drip or drop. Noun עריף ('arip) means cloud and ערפל ('arapel) describes a heavy cloud mass.
The noun ערף ('orep) means neck. It possibly derives from a whole other, unrelated verb of unknown meaning, but it may also be that underneath all these words hides a core meaning of to droop. This latter noun is used nearly solely in expressions that are based on the hanging of one's head (in submission, fear or stubbornness). The denominative verb ערף ('arap) literally means to neck but in practice it describes the breaking of one's neck.
And thus, the name Orpah may mean anything from Drip to Cloud to Shadow. That's not at all unusual, or even negative, since in the Bible great things tend to occur in darkness (Genesis 1:2, 15:17).
Then of course there is a possibility that someone creative enough might hear a compound of the words ערר (arar) strip of make bear (usually in order to mourn) plus פה (peh), mouth (which makes no sense), or פה (poh), here, which would render the name Orpah to mean Strip Here, and that would only make sense if she was born in a dressing room.
Then there is the following fabulously interesting group of words: עור ('awar), to make blind, which (as a result of a cataract) probably comes from the word עור ('or), skin or hide. The root עור ('ur) yields עיר ('ir) meaning excitement, and (as if the connection to both skin, excitement and blindness isn't clear enough) an identical root עור ('ur), to be exposed, laid bare, yields a number of variously spelled derivations that mean nakedness: מעור (ma'or), עירם ('erom), ערם ('arom).
The name Orpah is fabulously rich of meaning, perhaps because it's a Moabite and not a Hebrew name. But then, her sister-in-law's name was Ruth, and that's a common Hebrew word.
For a meaning of the name Orpah, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names go with ערף, meaning neck. Jones reads Mane (BDB Theological Dictionary explains that the Arabic cognate means just that: mane). NOBSE simply reads Neck.