🔼The name Shen: Summary
- From the noun שן (shen), tooth, from the verb שנן (shanan), to sharpen.
🔼The name Shen in the Bible
Shen is featured in the aftermath of the famous story of the Philistines capturing the Ark of the Covenant during a battle with Israel (1 Samuel 4:11). The Ark goes on a tour through the major Philistine cities but causes sickness and calamity, and the Philistines send it back (1 Samuel 5:11). The Ark re-enters Israel at Beth-shemesh where it strikes its last blow against insolence and disrespect (1 Samuel 6:19).
Twenty years later, the judge Samuel gathers Israel at Mizpah and oversees a ritualistic mass consecration that also draws the Philistines near. But YHWH releases a great thunder and disperses the Philistines and the Israelites pursue them and defeat them as far as Beth-car (1 Samuel 7:11). To commemorate these events, Samuel erects a stone between Mizpah and Shen, and calls it Ebenezer.
🔼Etymology of the name Shen
The name Shen is identical to the noun שן (shen), meaning tooth, from the verb שנן (shanan), meaning to sharpen:
The root שנן (shanan) speaks of repetition or the creation of distance between elements, often preceded by a breaking apart, and followed by a removal or even storage.
Verb שנן (shanan) means to sharpen, and sharpening is achieved by removing material by repeatedly stroking a blade against a whetstone. This verb is also used in the sense of sharpening a mind by repeating the same exercise. Noun שן (shen) means tooth. Noun שנינה (shenina) denotes a "sharp" word; a taunt.
Verb שנה (shana) means to change or create a difference — of one's mind, or one's clothes, and this mostly through repetition. Noun שנה (shana) means year.
Perhaps formally separate but obviously related, or else the very same verb שנה (shana) means to repeat or reoccur. Noun שנים (shenayim) or שתים (shetayim) is the common word for two or a pair. Adjective שני (sheni) or שנית (shenit) means second and noun משנה (misneh) means second, double, or copy. Noun שנאן (shin'an) is used as a superlative in figures of speech (i.e. expressions like double-down, super-double-good).
Noun שני (shani) denotes the color purple. This noun might formally derive from a third wholly separate verb of unclear meaning but obviously reminds of the many times a garment has to be dipped in dye to have its color changed.
Verb ישן (yashen) means to sleep, which seems to indicate that the ancients related one's daily activities to a forward stroke of one's mental blade against the whetstone of life, whereas sleep counted as the trailing stroke backward and removal of the burr. Adjective ישן (yashen) means sleeping or sleepy, and is obviously similar to its sibling noun ישן (yashen), which means old. Nouns שנה (shena), שנא (shena') and שנת (shenat) mean sleep.
Verb שנא (sane') is commonly translated with to hate but actually lacks the angry emotion that our English word conveys. It rather means to reject, create distance from and send away. Adjective שניא (sani') means hated (i.e. the hated wife), and noun שנאה (sin'a) means a hating or hatred, which comes down to a separating or a sending away.
For a meaning of the name Shen, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Tooth; A Pointed Rock, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Tooth. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret the name Shen but does confirm that it is identical to the noun שן (shen), meaning tooth.