🔼The name Pi-beseth: Summary
- House Of Bastet: House Of The Cat, House Of Cover Up
- Mouth Of Shame, Discernment Through Concealment
- From the Egyptian noun pr, house, and the theonym Bast or Bastet.
- From the Hebrew nouns פי (pi), mouth, and בשת (boshet), shame.
🔼The name Pi-beseth in the Bible
The name Pi-beseth belongs to a city in Egypt. It's mentioned only once in the Bible, namely in Ezekiel 30:17, where it is listed together with On as places whose young men would fall by the sword. The prophet Ezekiel associated that sword with Nebuchadnezzar (30:10), but it was ultimately the alphabet that wrecked the Egyptian state and its model of reality, its understanding of the intricacies of the mind of man, and ultimately the deities that governed it all. The victory of the alphabet over Egyptian hieroglyphs meant that a great deal of Egyptian theology (that is: psychology, sociology, science, technology and statecraft) was either forgotten or ascribed to the ingenuity of alphabet-users.
🔼Etymology of the name Pi-beseth
The name Pi-beseth is probably a liberal transliteration of the name Per-Bast — the Hebrew scribes had no reason to transliterate foreign names with any fidelity to its native pronunciation and very often presented the name in a deliberate variation of its original, presumably in order to provide a commentary on what that name was commonly understood to stand for. The original name, namely Per-Bast, combines the common Egyptian word pr, meaning house, temple or economic realm — the equivalent of the Hebrew בית (beth) and the Greek οικος (oikos) — with the name Bast or Bastet. This name is of unclear origin and meaning but it belonged to a very popular goddess who had the shape of a domestic cat. She represented harmony and cleanliness and was also the patron of cosmetics, which is the art of covering up any perceived imperfections and making things look "better" than they really are. Cosmetics aren't merely a lie, but are based on the arrogance that one's private definitions of reality are superior to the joint perceptions of unrelated observers (myriads of unrelated observers always speak the truth, which is why scientists like statistics so much).
The dog was mostly associated with herding and animal husbandry, and the cat was mostly associated with crop farming and the hunt for small mammals and rodents. The dog was ambulant and patrolled peripheries and attacked intruders as they crossed borders; the cat was sedentary, laid in wait and jumped intruders when they were already in the house. Dogs became the face of manly vigilance: mobility over large appropriated areas and the loudly proclaimed defense against foreign intruders. Cats became the face of feminine vigilance: housekeeping and social, behavioral and legal codes, norms and fashions, and the stealthy hunt for domestic violators of those codes. Dogs defined a stranger as someone who was physically localized outside the realm that the dog considered home. Cats defined a stranger as someone who had made himself comfortable within the realm but whose behavior was not conform the norm.
Dogs let the society declare who was welcome and who wasn't, whereas cats held society up to their private standards and hunted and killed anyone who didn't fit their bill. The Jews knew a thing or two about not fitting in, and remembered how YHWH had rejected the offer of agricultural Cain and accepted that of shepherding Abel. The Hebrew word for dog is כלב (keleb), which was also the name Caleb, who was the friend of Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land and after whom Jesus was named. The House of Cat, the Jews knew, was destined to create worlds of pain and would ultimately succumb to its own hyper-legalism.
The Hebrew transliteration of our name tells a thing or two about what the Jews thought of the House of Cat. The first word reminds of the noun פי (pi) or פה (peh), 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 doesn't exist in Biblical Hebrew but the transliterating scribes obviously had a field day with its allusions. The letter ב (beth) as prefix means "in" or "because of" and its name is obviously also the word for house and temple. The segment סת (set) could be construed to come from the verb סות (sut), to seduce, entice, instigate or allure, or even the noun סות (sut), covering or veil. Both letters of our segment had homophones, and our segment probably sounded similar to the verb שוט (sut), to swerve or fall away, which may even have had something to do with the familiar word שטן (satan).
The most obvious association of our name בסת (beseth), however, is with the word בשת (boshet), meaning shame:
The verb יבש (yabesh) means to wither (of plants or body parts). Adjective יבש (yabesh) means dry or dried. Nouns יבשה (yabbasha) and יבשת (yabbashet) refer to dry land.
The verb בוש (bosh) means to be ashamed and nouns בושה (busha), בושה (bosha) and בשת (boshet) mean shame. But although these words are usually translated with shame, humility might be a better word:
Noun מבוש (mabosh) is a rare word that appears to describe a man's private parts, but sexual modesty wasn't imposed upon society until modern times. Instead, our noun relates to the ebbing of bodily fluids from parts celebrated for their periodic retention of it.
A man's private and intuitive will was considered seated in his penis, and a flaccid and docile member demonstrated a considerate and cooperative man. This is also why Greco-Roman statues have such small willies: it reflects the understanding that men of modest private drives form the dry land upon which a society may build her glorious cities.
For a meaning of the name Pi-beseth, both BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List read House Of [The Goddess] Bast and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Portion Of The Spouse, which is rather stretched.
To a Hebrew audience, the mane Pi-beseth meant Mouth Of Shame or Discernment Through Concealment.