🔼The name Sheshbazzar: Summary
- Sin Protect The Father, Worshipper Of Fire
- (Jocularly:) Purity Incubator, Vineyard Of Rejoicing
- From the original Sin-bal-usur.
- From (1) the noun שש (shsh), white or to rejoice, and (2) the verb בצר (basar), to separate and protect.
🔼The name Sheshbazzar in the Bible
There's only one man named Sheshbazzar in the Bible; he's mentioned four times but always in relation to the same event.
Long before big names like Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah and Ezra became permanently associated with the return from the exile, king Cyrus of Persia gave an elected leader of Judah named Sheshbazzar back all the sacred items that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken from the temple of YHWH (Ezra 1:8 and 1:11). Sheshbazzar spearheaded the first wave of returnees, and laid the foundation of the restored temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:14 and 5:16).
It was long thought that Sheshbazzar was another name of Zerubbabel, but nowadays scholars deem that doubtful.
🔼Etymology of the name Sheshbazzar
The name Sheshbazzar is probably Persian in origin, and was possibly originally pronounced as Samas-bal-usur or Sin-bal-usur, which derives from the name Sin, the primary lunar deity. Yet the Jewish scribes who wrote down this name chose to turn it into something that looks strikingly Hebrew.
It seems that the Hebrew version of our name consists of two elements, the first one being any of the words שש (shsh):
There's an odd correlation between the color white and the number six. The nouns שש (shesh) and שיש (shayish) mean alabaster, which is a whitish translucent material. The identical word שש (shesh) means six. The noun שושן (shushan) describes the lily, which has six leaves and is proverbially white. The adjective ישש (yashesh) or ישיש (yashish) means old or white-haired.
The relatively rare verb שוש (sus) or שיש (sis) means to exult or rejoice, and its nouns ששון (sason) and משוש (masos) mean exultation, joy or gladness. Despite their similarity to the previous, these words seem to have little to do with the number six or being white, which is possibly why these words were pointed differently in the Middle Ages (the previous words have sh-sounds while these words have s-sounds).
The second part of our name looks like it came from the verb בצר (basar), meaning to wall-in on order to secure a harvest:
The verb בצר (basar) means to separate and protect for extraction (usually by placing a wall around it: hence the word "bazaar"). Noun בצרון (bissaron) means stronghold and noun מבצר (mibsar) fortification. Noun בצרה (bosra) means enclosure, noun בציר (basir) means vintage and noun בצר (beser) probably denotes precious ore (a vineyard operation is not unlike a mining operation). Nouns בצרה (bassara) and בצרת (bassoret) denote destitution or scarcity and probably refer to residue that remains after the extraction of commodities.
For a meaning of the name Sheshbazzar, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with the Persian original and reads Sin [The Moon God] Protect The Father. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) also stays in Persia and reads Worshipper Of Fire. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of our name.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the Hebrew scribes were advanced enough to properly transliterate this man's given name, yet instead they turned it into a Hebrew pseudo look-alike and that doubtlessly for a good reason. Since he was the man to whom Cyrus gave the temple treasuries back, with orders to restore the temple of YHWH, his Hebrew name appears to mean Purity Incubator, or something to that extent.