🔼The name Peniel: Summary
- Face Of God
- From (1) the verb פנה (pana), to turn, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Peniel in the Bible
There are one place and one man named Peniel in the Bible, although the man's name is usually turned into Penuel (פנואל):
- The place called Peniel is located near the brook Jabbok, where Jacob wrestled the angel of YHWH and prevailed (Genesis 32:30). The angel called Jacob Israel, and Israel called the place Peniel, and the author of the story in turn called Peniel Penuel (Genesis 32:31). The story of Gideon features a town called Penuel, and it's generally assumed that it's the same one. After having been insulted, Gideon kills the men of Penuel and destroys their tower (Judges 9:17). But because of its strategic position, king Jeroboam of Judah fortified it centuries later (1 Kings 12:25).
- The man called Peniel is a son of Shashak, son of Elpaal, son of Shaharaim of Benjamin and Hushim (1 Chronicles 8:25). Ancient Jewish commentators believed that Peniel was a mistake and noted that it should be read Penuel (see for a possible reason why our article on the name Penuel). All English translations followed this old Jewish advice and tell of Penuel, the son of Shashak.
🔼Etymology of the name Peniel
The name Penuel consists of two (or rather three) elements, the final one being אל (El), the prominent Canaanite deity, whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
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.
The first part of our name comes from the verb פנה (pana), meaning to turn:
The verb פנה (pana) means to turn toward. Adverb פנימה (penima) means toward the inside. Adjective פנימי (penimi) means inner.
This verb's primary derivation is the plural noun פנים (panim), literally turnings or inclinations. It's the common Biblical word for face and may also be used to mean scope, sight, surface, and so on.
The noun פנה (pinna) means corner, and is commonly used to describe where a wall makes a turn. This noun is thought to have derived from a by-form or parental form of the verb פנה (pana), namely פנן (panan), of similar meaning.
A second derivation of this form is the plural noun פנינים (peninim), which describes a red coral, probably with swirling branches or otherwise corrugated structure.
These two elements are tied together by the letter י (yod), which in this case creates a possessive form out of the first part: pana-of.
For a meaning of the name Peniel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads The Face Of God, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and BDB Theological Dictionary both read Face Of God.