🔼The name Sophereth: Summary
- [Female] Writer, Scribe
- From the noun ספר (seper), a record.
🔼The name Sophereth in the Bible
There's only one man named Sophereth in the Bible. He's mentioned as the head of a family of so-called Solomon's servants — which apparently was a distinct faction of the temple servants — that returned from the exile in Babylon (Nehemiah 7:57). Nehemiah calls him Sophereth but Ezra calls him the Sophereth, or Hassophereth (הספרת; Ezra 2:55). If this name (Has)sophereth hadn't occurred in a cluster of regular names, it would have probably not been understood to be a personal name.
🔼Etymology of the name Sophereth
The name Sophereth is part of the word cluster that's build around the word ספר (seper), meaning a writing:
The root ספר (spr) has to do with information technology: the efficient storage, retrieval and sharing of data. Long before fiction and recreational reading was a thing, record keeping was mostly a mathematical and economical enterprise, mostly conducted by specialized priests. The invention of the alphabet made writing easy and elevated every common man to the priestly level, and allowed everybody to study whatever they wanted. This allowed a deluge of original thought to enter collective consciousness, which in turn raised the level of human diversity, and thus complexity and thus cultural bliss.
Noun ספר (seper) denotes any kind of record, historical records, legal documents, prophetic messages, and so on. Noun ספרה (sipra) means book or a bundled collection of records. Denominative verb ספר (sapar) means to write or produce a ספר (seper): to carefully observe, to recount, to record. Noun ספר (sopor) or ספור (sopor) means scribe; someone who produces a ספר (seper). Noun ספר (separ) means census. Noun ספרה (sepora) means number, sum or amount. And noun מספר (mispar) means number.
The final letter ת (taw) of our name may come from an older spelling, or a plural version, of the noun ספרה (sepora), meaning number, or ספרה (sipra), meaning book. It may even be (as Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes) an otherwise unknown feminine version of the noun ספר or ספור (sopor), meaning scribe.
Had our name not been part of a name-list, the compound בני הספרת may very well have meant "sons of the lady scribe," but if there indeed had been a lady scribe whose sons had returned from exile, she would be the only one explicitly mentioned in Scriptures, and we would probably have heard from her in some more elaborate sense. We would certainly be told by what miracle she had come to be a scribe, as well as the name of her father and husband if she had one (which would be more than likely).
The phrase בני הספרת could also denote the members of some scribe's guild, but again, we would have heard of that guild in more ways than just this fleeting statement of their repatriation. The chances are best that this is indeed just one man. And it's not at all unusual in the Bible for men to have names that are really feminine nouns.
A similar conundrum occurs with the name Haggedolim.
For a meaning of the name Sophereth, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Writer, Scribe. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has the daring Female Scribe. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name but does group it under ספר (seper).