🔼The name Peleth: Summary
- Special, Separated
- From the verb פלה (pala), to be distinguished or separated.
🔼The name Peleth in the Bible
There are two men named Peleth in the Bible (not to be confused with Pelet, פלט):
- The father of On of Reuben, who joined Korah in his rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16:1). The demise of Peleth's son On isn't mentioned in detail, but Korah, Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth together with their wives and children (16:27), whereas Korah's 250 colleagues were burned without their families (16:35).
- A son of Jonathan, son of Jada of Jerahmeel of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:33). This Peleth, and his brother Zaza, lived about five generations after Judah, which suggests he lived in Egypt prior to the Exodus.
The Bible also makes mention of a mysterious tribe called the Pelethites, who lived in Jerusalem during the reign of David (2 Samuel 8:18). Whether this tribe descends from either of the Peleths is unknown, although the Judahite is the most plausible.
🔼Etymology of the name Peleth
It's not immediately clear where the name Peleth comes from. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) makes mention of an Arabic verb meaning to flee or escape, which would transliterate into Hebrew as פלת (palat). BDB Theological Dictionary thinks our name Peleth is really the same as Pallu (פלוא), which was a son of Reuben. That name comes from a cluster of words that seems related to the Arabic verb that Alfred Jones favored:
Root פלל (palal) is all about distinguishing and discerning, and often emphasizes representation of something unseen or not present. It's frequently used in the sense of to entreat or pray on someone's behalf.
Noun תפלה (tepilla) means prayer. Noun פליל (palil) describes an inspector or umpire and noun פלילה (pelila) refers to the place at which an umpire operates; a judge's office. Adjective פלילי (pelili) means "for a judge" or "to be judged" and noun פליליה (peliliya) means verdict or assessment. Noun פול (pol) means beans (and was probably imported but fits right in).
Verb פלה (pala) means to be distinct or separated. Pronoun פלני (peloni) refers to "a certain person/place."
Verb פלא (pala') means to be extraordinary. Nouns פלא (pele') and מפלאה (mipla'a) refer to extraordinary things or deeds. Adjective פלאי (pil'i) means extraordinary.
Verb אפל ('pl) means to disappear, depart or set (of the sun). Nouns אפל ('opel), אפלה ('apela), מאפל (ma'apel) and מאפליה (ma'pelya) mean darkness. Adjective אפל ('apel) means gloomy. Adjective אפיל ('apil) means late or belated (i.e. long unseen).
Verb נפל (napal) means to fall (down, down to, into or upon). The plural form נפלים (napalim) literally means 'fallen ones' or 'settled ones'.
Noun נפל (nepel) refers to an abortion or untimely birth. Noun מפל (mappal) describes that what falls. Nouns מפלה (mappala) and מפלה (mappela) mean ruin, and noun מפלת (mapplet) refers to a ruined thing or a falling.
For a meaning of the name Peleth, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Swiftness. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't offer a translation of our name but following its suggestion, the would interpret it as Wonderful.
Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that the name Peleth comes from the verb פלה (pala), to be distinguished or separated, and thus means Special, Separated. If so, it was probably intended to describe a separation from the norm, in this case being Reuben. There is nothing wrong with a departure from the norm, and might in fact be very fruitful, but in Peleth's case it seems to have left his son On without the sense to reject Korah's bad idea.