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Discover the meanings of thousands of Biblical names in Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault: Saph

Saph meaning

סף

Source: https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Saph.html

🔼The name Saph: Summary

Meaning
Threshold, Fence Keeper
Etymology
From the noun סף (sap), threshold.

🔼The name Saph in the Bible

The name Saph occurs only once in the Bible. He was one of the descendants of "the giant" (or Raphah in Hebrew, which was presumably the same as Goliath of Gath) who was killed by Sibbecai the Hushathite at the battle of Gob (2 Samuel 21:18). The Chronicler tells the same story, but places the battle at Gezer and calls our giant Sippai (1 Chronicles 20:4).

🔼Etymology of the name Saph

The name Saph is the same as the noun סף (sap), which means threshold or outer border, and was also the word for a kind of fire beacon on this outer border:

Excerpted from: Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary
ספף

Root ספף (sapap) has to do with creating, marking or temporarily reaching through the border between two essentially distinct realms that nevertheless have a common origin; this border circles around the smaller of the two so that this smaller realm sits within the larger. It's the verb that describes any such formation from the palisade around a tribal territory to the fence around a single house, the skin of a person or even the cellular wall of a eukaryote.

Noun סף (sap) means threshold or sill (and is also the word for a kind of goblin or based bowl). Verb סוף (sup) means to come at an end. Noun סוף (sop) means end. Noun שפה (sapa) denotes the edge of things. Noun סופה (supa) describes a violent storm (perhaps a tornado, in form comparable to a goblin or based bowl).

Noun סוף (sup) refers to reed, which grows at, and thus marks the border between water and dry land. From reed comes papyrus, and books mark the border between the howling outer dark and the enlightened space within. The industrial production of papyrus, of course, was an absolute marvel and a milestone in information technology (easily comparable with the invention of floppies and dish drives in our age).

Verb ספה (sapa) means to sweep away (across the threshold, out the door) and so does verb שפה (shapa). The latter may also mean to skim, to shave or to border-mark by means of a protruding beacon or mark. From the latter comes the verb שפת (shapat), which describes some kind of setting or placing just outside the realm of civilization, and that usually by means of a ring of conspicuous, guiding and protecting fires. Proverbially, both the contagious and the extremely poor, and of course the shepherds, their flocks and wild animals abided on the dark side of these fires. The latter verb also yields noun שפי (shepi), which describes bones sticking through the skin of a emaciated man, or hills that likewise conspicuously mark some border, presumably in an otherwise flat landscape.

Verb שוף (shup) appears to mean to violate in the sense of illicitly entering one's personal space (or body). This verb became associated with the bite of a snake, and the noun שפיפן (shepipon) denotes some sort of snake, presumably one that attacks by darting from its burrow and then swiftly retreating.

🔼Saph meaning

For a meaning of the name Saph, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Basin. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) derives our name from the same noun but feels the need to forcibly imply a giant's characteristic upon it, and arrives via the Ethiopian cognate, meaning to spread out, at Tall. This is really quite dubious and rather artificial. None of the other giants have names that confirm their gigantism. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of our name.

Despite Jones' enthusiasm, it's not easy to guess why this giant was called Threshold or Outer Rim, but since the Chronicler calls him Sippai (meaning "of the outer rim"), it seems plausible that this person (or even order or elite collectively grouped under one name) had something to do with the defense of a city, a temple or the Philistines' general culture. Here at Abarim Publications we guess that Saph means Fence Keeper.