🔼The name Shelah
There are two completely different Hebrew names in the Bible that are commonly both translated with Shelah. But they're spelled different and they mean different things. We'll call them Shelah I (שלח) and Shelah II (שלה):
🔼The name Shelah I: Summary
- Missionary, Emissary
- From the verb שלח (shalah), to send.
🔼The name Shelah I in the Bible
The only Shelah I (שלח, probably more properly pronounced as Shelach) of the Bible is a son of Arpachshad, son of Shem, son of Noah (Genesis 10:24). This Shelah was an ancestor of Christ, and is mentioned by Luke (spelled Σαλα, Sala; Luke 3:35).
🔼Etymology of the name Shelah I
The name Shelah-with-heth comes from the verb שלח (shalah), meaning to send:
The verb שלח (shalah) means to send; to send whatever from messengers to arrows. It may even be used to describe a plant's offshoots or branches.
Noun שלח (shelah) refers to some kind of weapon, apparently a kind of missile. Plural noun שלוחים (shilluhim) means a send-off; a sending away or parting gift. Noun שלוחה (sheluha) refers to a shoot or branch. Noun משלח (mishlah) describes an outstretching of one's hand (i.e. an undertaking, or referring to the place where the letting go takes place). Noun משלוח (mishloah) also means an outstretching or a sending. Noun משלחת (mishlahat) describes a discharge from service, or a deputation.
The noun שלחן (shulhan) means table. It may actually stem from a whole other but identical verb that originally described the skinning an animal and stretching the hide out to dry. Possibly helped by the previous verb, this outstretching of a hide became attached to the laying down of a blanket (or indeed a hide) in order to stall goods on it (like the elements of a meal). When someone invented a table on legs the word to describe it was lifted from the old custom of picnicking on a blanket: a stretcher-outer.
🔼Shelah I meaning
Assuming that Shelah wasn't named after a table, the name Shelah (שלח) may mean Sent Out, Branch or Javelin. For a meaning of the name Shelah (of either spelling) NOBSE Study Bible Name List appears to go with Shelah I and reads Sprout, Request.
🔼The name Shelah II: Summary
- Extracted, Prosperity
- Request, Petition
- From the verb שלה (shala), to extract or de-employ.
- From the verb שאל (sha'al), to ask or request.
🔼The name Shelah II in the Bible
There are two characters in the Bible that are named שלה, namely:
🔼Etymology of the name Shelah II
The name (שלה) Shelah-with-he seems to be related to the verb שלה (shala):
The verb שלל (shalal) means to extract, mostly in the sense of to plunder. The noun שלל (shalal) means plunder. Adjective שולל (sholal) means barefoot.
Verb שלה (shala) too means to extract. Noun שליה (shilya) means afterbirth.
Perhaps a second verb שלה (shala) means to be at rest and prosper, although a peaceful existence occurs when one is extracted from the world of toil and turmoil. Nouns שלו (shalu) and שלוה (shalwa) mean prosperity. Adjectives שלי (sheli) and שלו (shalew) mean quiet, private or prosperous.
The name Shelah (שלה) means all of the above, but would probably be interpreted to mean either Prosperity or Booty.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names disagrees with all these obvious similarities, and takes the name Shelah to be a syncopated (= shortened by omitting the letter in the middle) form of the noun שאלה (she'ela), meaning request or petition:
The verb שאל (sha'al) means to ask. Noun שאלה (she'la) means request or petition, and noun משאלה (mish'ala) means petition or desire. The difficult noun שאול (she'ol) refers primarily to the grave and by extension to death and decomposition.
This would relate the name Shelah to the name Saul, and thus Jones translates this form of the name Shelah with Prayer.
From a linguistic point of view this may or may not be correct, and Prayer may be the original meaning of the name Shelah, but to a Hebrew audience, especially the non-linguists, the name Shelah looks like it means Prosperity.