🔼The name Parshandatha: Summary
- Law Expounder
- From (1) the verb פרש (parash), to expound, and (2) the noun דת (dat), law or decree.
🔼The name Parshandatha in the Bible
The name Parshandatha occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Esther 9:7 where he is listed as the first of ten sons of Haman, the would-be murderer of Israel. This genocide was averted by queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai, and their victory is up to present times still celebrated annually with the Purim festival. Haman and his ten sons were duly killed.
🔼Etymology of the name Parshandatha
The name Parshandatha is doubtlessly Persian, but was transliterated into Hebrew in such a way that it actually meant something. In fact, it means something so virtuous that it's a bit of a mystery why this Persian name was not shoehorned into a Hebraized version that meant something rotten. In the twelfth century, this name was interpreted in the way we will describe below, and was subsequently attached as honorary title to the great French rabbi Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki).
The name Parshandatha was considered to consist of two elements. The final part was considered to be the Persian loan-word דת (dat), meaning law or decree:
The noun דת (dat) means (human) law or decree. It's a foreign loanword, which only occurs in the youngest parts of the Bible. An identical noun from other cognate language may mean well or fountain.
The first part of our name was thought to stem from the same root as did the name Pharisee, namely the verb פרש (parash), meaning to convey with great precision:
The roots פרס (paras) and פרש (paras) most basically speak of a sudden bursting forth in a wide spray of elements of something that was previously well concealed.
Verb פרס (paras) means to break and divide in equal shares (of bread, for instance). Noun פרס (peres) denotes a kind of unclean bird (perhaps a vulture, or perhaps a didactyl, i.e. a two-toed bird; an ostrich). Noun פרסה (parsa) means hoof (both cloven and solid ones) but may also refer to a whole animal as unit-of-the-herd (like our modern word "head"). Noun פרש (parash) means either horse or horseman as unit-of-the-army.
Verb פרש (paras) means to spread or spread out (of wings, hands, nets, and so on). Noun מפרש (mipras) refers to either a spreading out or a thing spread out.
Verb פרשׁ (parash) means to declare with precision, make wholly obvious or fully explain. Noun פרשה (parasha) refers to a precise statement. Noun פרש (peresh) means fecal matter or the exposed bowels of a sacrificial animal (and remember that to the ancients the emotional heart resided in the bowls).
Note that our modern word "science" shares a root with the word "schism," and literally describes the act of breaking and spreading out.
For a meaning of the name Parshandatha, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a rather lame Inquisitive, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes back to the Persian and proposes Of Noble Birth.
The same name applied to rabbi Rashi has been interpreted as Interpreter Of Law (Jewish Encyclopedia) or The Commentator Of The Law (Yonathan Kolatch, Masters of the Word).