🔼The name Sippai: Summary
- Gatekeeper, Fence Worker
- From the verb שפף (sapap), to mark a border or reach across it.
🔼The name Sippai in the Bible
There is only one Sippai in the Bible and he was one of four sons of "the giant" (or Raphah in Hebrew) who was most likely Goliath of Gath, who was famously slain by young David in the valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:2).
Sippai and his brothers couldn't get enough of fighting Israel, but they were done in during several battles near Gob and Gezer. According to the Chronicler, Sippai was slain by Sibbecai the Hushathite at Gezer (1 Chronicles 20:4). The book of Samuel tells the same story, but calls this giant Saph and places his demise at the battle of Gob (2 Samuel 21:18).
🔼Etymology of the name Sippai
The name Sippai, is the name Saph with a final י (yod), and the name Saph is identical to the noun סף (sap), which denotes the outer extreme of a house, or its door's threshold:
Root ספף (sapap) has to do with creating, marking or temporarily reaching through the border between two essentially distinct realms that nevertheless have a common origin; this border circles around the smaller of the two so that this smaller realm sits within the larger. It's the verb that describes any such formation from the palisade around a tribal territory to the fence around a single house, the skin of a person or even the cellular wall of a eukaryote.
Noun סף (sap) means threshold or sill (and is also the word for a kind of goblin or based bowl). Verb סוף (sup) means to come at an end. Noun סוף (sop) means end. Noun שפה (sapa) denotes the edge of things. Noun סופה (supa) describes a violent storm (perhaps a tornado, in form comparable to a goblin or based bowl).
Noun סוף (sup) refers to reed, which grows at, and thus marks the border between water and dry land. From reed comes papyrus, and books mark the border between the howling outer dark and the enlightened space within. The industrial production of papyrus, of course, was an absolute marvel and a milestone in information technology (easily comparable with the invention of floppies and dish drives in our age).
Verb ספה (sapa) means to sweep away (across the threshold, out the door) and so does verb שפה (shapa). The latter may also mean to skim, to shave or to border-mark by means of a protruding beacon or mark. From the latter comes the verb שפת (shapat), which describes some kind of setting or placing just outside the realm of civilization, and that usually by means of a ring of conspicuous, guiding and protecting fires. Proverbially, both the contagious and the extremely poor, and of course the shepherds, their flocks and wild animals abided on the dark side of these fires. The latter verb also yields noun שפי (shepi), which describes bones sticking through the skin of an emaciated man, or hills that likewise conspicuously mark some border, presumably in an otherwise flat landscape.
Verb שוף (shup) appears to mean to violate in the sense of illicitly entering one's personal space (or body). This verb became associated with the bite of a snake, and the noun שפיפן (shepipon) denotes some sort of snake, presumably one that attacks by darting from its burrow and then swiftly retreating.
The letter י (yod) at the end of our name turns the noun סף (sap) into an adjective or possessive form: my saph, saph of, or pertaining to saph.
The name Sippai most probably expresses an affinity with the outer rim of a protected area, and probably is akin the phrase שמר הסף, or Gatekeeper.