🔼The name Pethahiah: Summary
- Yah Opens, Yah Loosens
- From (1) the verb פתח (patah), to open or release, and (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
🔼The name Pethahiah in the Bible
There are three men named Pethahiah in the Bible:
- A descendant of Aaron through either his son Eleazar or his son Ithamar (1 Chronicles 24:16).
- One of the Levites who divorced their foreign wives during the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:23). This Pethahiah may or may not be the same as the one mentioned by Nehemiah, who was one of the Levites who delivered the great sermon prior to the signing of the sealed document (Nehemiah 9:5)
- A son of Meshezabel, son of Zerah of Judah, who was king Artaxerxes's representative in all matters "concerning the people" (Nehemiah 11:24).
🔼Etymology of the name Pethahiah
The name Pethahiah consists of two elements, the final one being יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
The first part of our name comes from the verb פתח (patah), either meaning to open or to engrave:
The verb פתח (patah) means to open. And since the opening of lips precedes speaking, and the opening of ears precedes hearing, our verb may also mean to speak and to hear (and to see, to be hospitable, to ask for with open hands, and so on). Our verb may be applied to the opening of constricting things, which gives it the meaning of to loosen or release. This verb (or perhaps a whole separate one) may also be used to mean to engrave, although engraving and opening a surface so that the surface speaks are not that far apart.
Noun פתח (petah) means opening or doorway. Similar noun פתח (petah) means opening in the sense of an unfolding. Noun פתון (pithon) also means opening. Noun פתיחה (petiha) denotes a drawn sword (the edge of a sword was known as the "mouth" of it). A prefixed מ usually indicates place or agency and noun מפתח (miptah) means utterance and the similar masculine noun מפתח (mapteah) means key.
Our name is a bit curious. It literally means Yah Opens, but the applicatory sense is hard to estimate:
NOBSE Study Bible Name List assumes it has to do with the termination of a period of barrenness and childless (see for instance Genesis 30:22) and reads Yahweh Opens (The Womb) for a meaning of Pethahiah.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names too derives our name from פתח (patah) but translates our name with Loosened Of The Lord, explaining this with Whom The Lord Set Free.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret Pethahiah but does list it under the verb פתח (patah).