🔼The name Silla: Summary
- Heap, Highway
- From the verb סלל (salal), to cast or heap up.
🔼The name Silla in the Bible
It's not entirely sure whether Silla is a Biblical name or not, but the authors of all modern English translations appear to suppose so and so did those who produced the Septuagint and the Vulgate. So what's the big screaming deal?
The troubling passage appears in 2 Kings 12:20, where Jozabad (or Zabad, according to 2 Chronicles 24:26) and Jehozabad murder king Joash. The Chronicler informs us that Joash died in his bed, and the author of Second Kings reveals that the murder took place at or in the royal complex at Millo near Jerusalem. The two words that follow the word Millo (namely היורד סלא) describe a downward motion towards silla. The question is: what's moving?
If Joash is moving (from the royal complex at Millo to a proposed but otherwise unknown location named Silla), then he wasn't murdered in his bed but on the road. And why would the author of Kings refer to a place that's otherwise entirely unknown? Saying that Joash was murdered on the way from Millo to Silla is like saying that Kennedy was shot on the road from Dealey Plaza to Langford Street.
And so a small group of theologians (among whom the renowned Gesenius) proposed that our word silla is not the name of a location but an otherwise unused noun meaning highway, drawn from the verb סלל (salal; see below). Allowing for that would put Millo by a descending highway (and descending in this sense means perpendicular to Jerusalem), and Joash sound asleep in his royal pad.
The obvious downside of this proposal is that it doesn't explain why the well-known complex of Millo would need an additional reference to the highway out of Jerusalem.
🔼Etymology of the name Silla
The origin of the word or name Silla should probably be traced to the following root-group:
The verb סלל (salal) primarily means to cast or heap up, and is mostly used in relation to building highways. Highways, of course, come to pass when first a heap of individuals individually choose to take the same route, thus creating a natural path, after which a government of sorts piles rocks upon the path and tops it off with pavement.
In much the same way, collective handiness evolves into a natural or spontaneous cultural quality, and finally a formal technology from which even foreigners may benefit. Likewise the command to create a highway for the Lord in the desert has nothing to do with Jeeps and Land Rovers and everything with growing smarter as a natural people and finally bringing forth formal science (or language or technology). Likewise "lifting up the Lord" has nothing to do with howling inane homages toward the church ceiling, but rather with achieving responsible mastery of created nature.
Noun סללה (solela) describes a piled up mound or wall. Noun סלם (sullam) describes Jacob's ladder, which obviously wasn't actually a ladder but rather a reference to cognition. Nouns מסלה (mesilla) and מסלול (maslul) mean highway. The verb סלה (sela) is only used in the imperative form, and as a musical term that commands people not simply to rise up but to settle their verbal expressions into a harmonious whole.
Verb סלה (sala) also means to pile up but emphasizes the tossing and particularly the tossing aside of elements that won't fit a standard. This verb (or an identical other) is also used to describe the heaping up of gold bits in order to weigh them against a standard weight.
Noun סל (sal) probably derives from סלל (salal) and describes a kind of basket, obviously one used to pile stuff into. A most obvious discussion of this root and its methods and effects is found in the New Testament, as the various accounts of the miraculous "feeding of the multitude."
For a meaning of the name Silla, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Twig, Basket (and deems Silla a quarter or suburb of Jerusalem). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names calls Silla a town near to Jerusalem and translates its name with Heap Of Earth or Highway. BDB Theological Dictionary does not try to interpret our name.