🔼The name Pul: Summary
- Distinctive, Discerner, Darkling
- From the verb פלל (palal), to distinguish or discern.
🔼The name Pul in the Bible
The name Pul is assigned to one human male and one country:
- Pul the man is the same as Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria. We hear first of Pul when the evil king Menahem of Israel tried to buy him off with a thousand talents of silver, and finally with fifty shekels from every man in Israel (2 Kings 15:19). But king Pul didn't stay away for long. The Chronicler reports that king Pul invaded again and carried off into exile the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river Gozan (1 Chronicles 5:26).
- Pul the country is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah among the countries that would be visited by missionaries, and from which YHWH would gather believers and bring them to his holy mountain in Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:19). Since the other lands that Isaiah lists are all well known, commentators nowadays believe that this otherwise unmentioned Pul is the same as the better known Put. This obviously remains conjecture.
🔼Etymology of the name Pul
It's been a long surviving mystery where the name Pul might have come from. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names), which was first published in 1856, believed that Pul was succeeded by Tiglath-pileser, and derives his name from the Persian, Arabic and Chaldean word for elephant. A helpful reciprocator submitting to Yahoo Answers states that the Persian and Arabic word for elephant is FEIIIL, which pronounces as FEEL, and that seems close enough to Pul. But we don't know how the name Pul or the word for elephant sounded back in the day (there are no sound recordings from Biblical times), so all we know is that the name Pul was spelled in a way that looks like it may have sounded somewhat similar to how present day Persians pronounce the word for elephant.
In Context of Scripture (2002), William W. Hallo submits: "Today we know that Tiglath-pileser III was Pul, though there is still some discussion among Assyriologists concerning the etymology and use of the name Pul". Barry J. Beitzel writes in Biblica — The Bible Atlas (2007): "For centuries it was assumed that Pul and Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria were separate kings, as implied by the account in 2 Kings. It is now known that "Pul" is a diminutive form of Tiglath-pileser, presumably from the middle portion of the name from where it may have been associated in folk etymology. Pul or Pulu is a well-known Assyrian name, meaning "limestone (or block of limestone)"".
As attested by William Halo, scholars working before 1850 had little material to work with and in the last century and a half an enormous trove of Assyrian and related texts have been unearthed and analyzed. And so it seems plausible that Pul has become a "well-known name".
But it's also a commonly accepted fact that the Hebrew writers made it a bit of a sport to misrepresent names of famous kings. The king known in the Hebrew Bible and consequently the Greek and Latin worlds as Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, was actually called Nabu-kudurri-usur, and Tiglath-pileser's real name was Tukulti-apil-Esarra. There aren't many ways to write Pul in Hebrew, but it appears that his name was really Pulu. The Hebrew authors wrote this name as פול and that word associates to the following root cluster:
Root פלל (palal) is all about distinguishing and discerning, and often emphasizes representation of something unseen or not present. It's frequently used in the sense of to entreat or pray on someone's behalf.
Noun תפלה (tepilla) means prayer. Noun פליל (palil) describes an inspector or umpire and noun פלילה (pelila) refers to the place at which an umpire operates; a judge's office. Adjective פלילי (pelili) means "for a judge" or "to be judged" and noun פליליה (peliliya) means verdict or assessment. Noun פול (pol) means beans (and was probably imported but fits right in).
Verb פלה (pala) means to be distinct or separated. Pronoun פלני (peloni) refers to "a certain person/place."
Verb פלא (pala') means to be extraordinary. Nouns פלא (pele') and מפלאה (mipla'a) refer to extraordinary things or deeds. Adjective פלאי (pil'i) means extraordinary.
Verb אפל ('pl) means to disappear, depart or set (of the sun). Nouns אפל ('opel), אפלה ('apela), מאפל (ma'apel) and מאפליה (ma'pelya) mean darkness. Adjective אפל ('apel) means gloomy. Adjective אפיל ('apil) means late or belated (i.e. long unseen).
Verb נפל (napal) means to fall (down, down to, into or upon). The plural form נפלים (napalim) literally means 'fallen ones' or 'settled ones'.
Noun נפל (nepel) refers to an abortion or untimely birth. Noun מפל (mappal) describes that what falls. Nouns מפלה (mappala) and מפלה (mappela) mean ruin, and noun מפלת (mapplet) refers to a ruined thing or a falling.
To the Hebrew ear the name Pul sounded like Beans, but also associated to the words for Wonderful, Judge and Gloom.
For a meaning of the name Pul, Barry J. Beitzel reads (Block Of) Limestone. NOBSE Study Bible Name List appears to go with the old tradition and reads Strong. Likewise Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Elephantine. BDB Theological Dictionary offers no interpretation of this name.