🔼The name Othniel: Summary
- God Is Force, Lion Of El
- From (1) a verb עתן ('atan), to be exalted or violent like a lion, and (2) אל ('el), the word God.
🔼The name Othniel in the Bible
There is one man and possibly one village named Othniel mentioned in the Bible. Othniel the man was a son of Kenaz of Judah, who was a brother of Caleb, the friend of Joshua. He was first noted for conquering the city called Kiriath-sepher (= City of Scribes) for which he received Achsah, the daughter of Caleb, his cousin, for a wife (Joshua 15:17, Judges 1:13). Their sons were named Hathath and Meonothai, who sired a class of craftsmen (1 Chronicles 4:13).
After an eight year occupation by king Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim, Othniel rose to the rescue, defeated the evil oppressor and governed for forty peaceful years as Israel's first judge (Judges 3:9-11).
The town named Othniel may be mentioned in 1 Chronicles 27:15, in a list of the twelve commanders of Israel during the reign of king David. The twelfth commander is listed as Heldai the Netophathite of Othniel. A Netophathite is someone from Netophah, which appears to have been a cluster of villages, and of which Othniel may have been one. But it's also possible that Othniel's progeny of craftsmen peopled Netophah, in which case Othniel is a patriarch rather than a village.
🔼Etymology of the name Othniel
The name Othniel consists of two elements. The first part appears to come from a verb עתן ('atan) that wasn't used in the entire Bible and may not even have existed in Hebrew:
The verb עתן ('atan) is not used in the Bible but it may be equivalent to an Arabic verb that means to deal violently with, and from which derives a word for lion.
The verb עתל ('atal) is equally mysterious, and may be a variant of עתן ('atan) and mean the same thing, or it may be cognate to an Assyrian verb that means to grow great or exalted.
And ultimately, these verbs may stem from an underlying idea that growing great and inflicting violence often coincides.
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.
For a meaning of the name Othniel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a rather bland God Is Force. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Lion Of God, which would make Othniel the exotic foreign equivalent of the more familiar name Ariel, although the lion referred in that name serves as an image of a creature that gathers rather than one that is typically violent. BDB Theological Dictionary does not make an attempt to explain our name.