🔼The name Siloam: Summary
- From the verb שלח (shalah), to send or let go.
🔼The name Siloam in the Bible
Siloam is the name of a pool outside Jerusalem. The evangelist John tells how Jesus sends a man who's been blind from birth to this pool to wash (John 9:7 and 9:11). The man goes and comes back seeing! The compass of this miracle seems to escape many readers because it involved a complete rewrite of the man's brain.
The brain of a baby whose eyes work fine has to learn how to interpret what the eyes pass on to it. A baby whose eyes are functioning still "sees" nothing until the brain has formed the ability to see through experience. Someone who's been blind since birth and who is abruptly healed won't suddenly see the world as seeing people do. His world is formed by smells and sounds and the sudden influx of visual information won't lead to anything but confusion and possibly a whopping psychosis, and will leave the man most likely catatonic but certainly not cheering. Starting to see after a lifetime of being blind is much more mind-blowing that going blind after a lifetime of seeing.
Healing a man who's been blind since birth virtually requires the death of the blind person and his resurrection as seeing person. The miracle at Siloam, almost casually mentioned by John only, is one of astonishing magnitude, on a par with Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1-19), the miracle at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-10; since producing wine takes time, the vats of water were not only simply given the qualities of wine but also the past of wine), and even the resurrection of mankind itself (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
The pool of Siloam is referred to by Isaiah (8:6) as Shiloah and by Nehemiah as Shelah (3:15). The gospel of Luke makes mention of a tower that fell on people at Siloam and killed them (13:4). It's plausible that the stories of Jesus healing people at the pools of Siloam and Bethesda and consequent religious discussions, were also designed to serve as commentaries on the goings on in Hierapolis.
🔼Etymology of the name Siloam
The name Siloam is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Shiloah, and Shiloah comes from the Hebrew verb שלח (shalah), meaning to send out or let go:
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.
The gospel of John (9:7), NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names agree: the name Siloam means Sent.