🔼The name Shihor-libnath: Summary
- Black-White, Dark Side Of The Moon, Lunar Eclipse
- From (1) the verb שחר (shahar), to be black, and (2) the verb לבן (laben), to be white.
🔼The name Shihor-libnath in the Bible
The name Shihor-libnath occurs only once in the Bible but we don't exactly know whether it's a city or a river. But whatever it is, it marked the border of the territory of the tribe of Asher, and should be somewhere close to mount Carmel (present day Haifa).
Most commentaries state that Shihor-libnath was a river but there's nothing in the text that makes that clear, or where that river is supposed to be. The only river close to mount Carmel is the Kishon, which still drains into Haifa bay to this day.
🔼Etymology of the name Shihor-libnath
The name Shihor-libnath consists of two elements that seem each other's opposites. The first part appears to come from the verb שחר (shahar), to be dark, or the noun שחר (shahar), eclipse:
The verb שחר (shahar) means to be black or dark (mostly of skin, hair and horses). The adjective שחר (shahor) means black, and adjective שחרחר (sheharhor) means blackish. Nouns שחור (shehor) and שחרות (shaharut) mean blackness.
The noun שחר (shahar) is generally thought to mean dawn, but here at Abarim Publications we find that unlikely (for our reasoning, follow the link at the foot of this paragraph, to the full Dictionary article). Instead, we propose that this noun describes a solar eclipse, which occurs when an invisible moon moves in front of the sun and blocks out its light. This causes a brief and unexpected moment of nightly darkness, which in turn makes the stars and planets visible.
An observer can see other people, but she cannot see what they see. This means that the sun she sees is hers alone, and equal to her own ratio. A solar eclipse also eclipses one's own solar ratio and reveals the many ratios of other people. This awakens one's stellar consciousness, or Theory of Mind, which counts as being "born from above" (John 3:3). These events are obviously mimicked in the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection.
From the noun שחר (shahar), solar eclipse, derives the denominative verb שחר (shahar), meaning to diligent search for God and wisdom; again qualities of a stellar consciousness.
The second part of our name is an older variant spelling of the common form לבנה, which covers several different nouns, including one meaning moon, and which all derive from the verb לבן (laben), meaning to be or become white:
The verb לבן (laben) means to be or become white. Contrary to modern understandings of white as a symbol, in the Bible white either denotes a blank state (and thus emptiness or stupidity) or the state of greatest resistance to the absorption of light, which comes down to pride, stubbornness and more stupidity. Hence leprosy, or the "white disease" signifies unwarranted pride and arrogance.
Contrary to popular conception, black and white are both dark, but black things absorb light and become hot (or smart), whereas white things reflect light and stay cold (or stupid).
Adjective לבן (laban) means white (i.e. blank, un-written upon: stupid). Noun לבנה (lebanah) refers to the moon. Nouns לבנה (lebonah) and לבונה (lebonah) describe frankincense. Noun לבנה (lebneh) describes the poplar. Noun לבנה (lebenah) means brick, and the denominative verb לבן (laban) means to make bricks.
The wonderful name Shihor-libnath yields a broad pallet of meanings. It may mean Black-White or Dark Side Of The Moon or Lunar Eclipse.
For a meaning of the name Shihor-libnath, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a rather unimaginative Turbid Stream Of Libnath, which apparently assumes a town called Libnath, which could be a namesake of Libnah (again, of an older spelling).
As said above, here at Abarim Publications we propose that the noun שחר (shahar) does not mean dawn, as is often said, but rather eclipse (in this specific case of the moon rather than the sun). But if this noun indeed meant dawn, it would have required the existence of an otherwise not attested verb שחר II (shahar, II), that would mean something like to dawn or begin to shine. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names cites the famous German theologian Johann David Michaelis who figured that the elusive verb שחר II (shahar II) could very well have meant "breaking forth" and boldly applied it to the behavior of rivers. Then he evenly boldly assumed that the verb לבן (laben) may very well also have meant to be transparent, and could have described the glass that Phoenicians made from sand found on the beach. And thus Michaelis translated our name with River Of Glass. The difficulty with all this creativity is that in the Bible, dawn (whether בקר, boqer or שחר, shahar) is never experienced as breaking forth, or being river-like, and the verb לבן (laben) never reflects whatever little concept of transparency the Hebrews had.
BDB Theological Dictionary neither interprets this name nor lists it under either of the roots cited above. BDB lists this name beneath the name Shihor, but expresses doubt that either name technically arose from either of the above roots. This is a doubt probably not shared by an ancient speaker of Hebrew.