🔼The name Phicol: Summary
- Mouth Of All, Edge Of Completion
- From (1) the noun פה (peh), or פי (pi), mouth, and (2) the noun כל (kol), all or whole.
🔼The name Phicol in the Bible
There are possibly two but probably only one man named Phicol in the Bible. He is the commander of the army of Abimelech of Gerar, and he and Abimelech travel to Abraham to make a peace pact with him (Genesis 21:22). That pact results in the naming of Beersheba (Genesis 21:31).
It was long assumed that there were two Abimelechs, who just happened to be named the same, but then there would also have to be two Phicols. But life spans during the age of the patriarchs were still about twice or three times the human life span of today, and there is no real valid objection to the conclusion that Abimelech and Phicol simply lived that long.
There are also scholars who believe that Abimelech is a royal title instead of a personal name (comparable to Caesar or Pharaoh), and perhaps the "name" Phicol isn't a name either but the Philistine title of army commander.
🔼Etymology of the name Phicol
The name Phicol looks like it's a compound of two elements. The first part looks like it comes from the word פה (peh) or פי (pi), meaning mouth:
The verb פאה (pa'a) means to cleave or break apart (what one does with a sword) and the derived noun פאה (pe'a) means corner or side.
Apparently related to the above is the otherwise inexplicable noun פה (peh) or פו (po) or פי (pi), meaning mouth. This word has a somewhat greater compass than its English counterpart, and also includes the edge of a sword (hence the sword protruding from the white horseman's mouth; Revelation 19:15). This word may also be used to mean extremity or end, which brings it in close proximity to the noun פאה (pe'a), corner or side.
A second word of similar form is the adverb פה (poh), which means here or hither. This adverb is alternately spelled פו (po) and פא (pa').
The second part of our name looks like the word כל (kol), meaning all or whole, from the verb כלה (kala), meaning to bring to completion:
The root כלל (kll) deals with limits, and particularly the limit on growth or progression. This limit may be incurred by interment or incarceration, but it may also mark the asymptotic quality of perfection or completion.
Verb כלא (kala') means to shut in or shut up. Nouns כלא (kele'), כלוא (klw') and כליא (keli) mean imprisonment. Noun מכלה (mikla), means enclosure or fold. Verb כול (kul) means to contain or cause to contain.
Verb כלה (kala) denotes the bringing to a completion of some process, and that usually but not always in a negative sense. Noun כלה (kala) mostly describes complete destruction or complete annihilation. Adjective כלה (kaleh) describes a failing with desire and noun כליון (killayon) means either a failing or pining of the eyes or annihilation. Noun מכלה (mikla) means completeness (and is identical to the word meaning enclosure or fold). The noun תכלה (tikla) means perfection. Noun תכלית (taklit) means end or completeness. The very common noun כלי (keli) describes any kind of article that (possibly) took a while to make but is now finished, or a vessel that was designed to hold some finished product; a holding pot.
Verb כלל (kalal) means to complete or make perfect. The very common noun כל (kol) means all or the whole. Adjective כליל (kalil) means entire or whole. Nouns מכלול (miklol) and מכלל (miklal) mean perfection. Noun מכלל (maklul) describes something made perfect.
The noun כלה (kalla) means bride or daughter-in-law, and noun כלולה (kelula) means espousal, which obviously reflects the Bible's expectation that humanity's ultimate perfection makes her a Bride to the Creator.
For a meaning of the name Phicol, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Mouth Of All, and explains this by stating that Phicol served as the spokesperson of the king, "the all".
The name Phicol certainly resembles the Hebrew for "mouth of all", but strictly etymologically this is probably dubious since neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor BDB Theological Dictionary care to interpret this name.