🔼The name Pethuel: Summary
- God's Unfocussed Expansion
- From (1) the verb פתה (pata), to expand aimlessly, and (2) the word אל ('el), God.
🔼The name Pethuel in the Bible
The name Pethuel occurs only one time in the Bible. All we know about this man is that he was the father of the prophet Joel (Joel 1:1).
🔼Etymology of the name Pethuel
The name Pethuel consists of two elements, the final one being אל (El), either 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 curious verb פתה (pata), meaning to expand aimlessly:
The verb פתה (pata) appears to describe the process of slowly but surely growing wider without investing much critical thought in the quality of the substance that is acquired. It's the process that makes a mud flat or sand bank grow bigger, until it even begins to yield dry land and perhaps to support an island ecosystem. In much the same way a human mind will grow, if one does not separate useful from useless information, and eventually yield certainties and perhaps even forms of creativity that are all based on mostly garbage and loose debris.
This verb's sole derivative is the noun פתי (peti), which describes a non-critical mind that grows ever larger with nonsense: forever learning but never understanding.
For a meaning of the name Pethuel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads God Delivers, for no apparent reason (it really doesn't mean that). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes the rather generous Ingenuousness Of God, "i.e. great simplicity of mind". BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name but does list it under the root פתה.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the name Pethuel expresses the middle part of the three mental stages that the sons of Noah were named after: Ham is where care begins. Japheth is where acquisition begins, and Shem is where acquisition becomes particular and serves to achieve a desired result.