🔼The name Zalmunna: Summary
- Shadow Is Withheld
- From (1) the noun צל (sel), shade or shadow, and (2) the verb מנע (mana'), to withhold.
🔼The name Zalmunna in the Bible
The name Zalmunna belongs to one of four kings of Midian who had invaded Israel and were causing such a trouble that YHWH called Gideon to sort things out (Judges 6:12). Gideon mustered the Israelites and famously whittled his forced down from 32,000 to a mere 300 men (7:7). The 300 sent a panic into the Midianites by blowing trumpets and waving torches, and the Midianites took flight (7:21).
The rest of the people gave chase, and captured two of the enemy kings, namely Zeeb and Oreb, who were subsequently killed and beheaded (7:25). The heads were brought to Gideon and his 300 men, who promptly turned their attention to the renegade monarchs Zebah and Zalmunna (8:5).
After much chasing, much killing and much whipping folks with briars, Gideon finally caught up with Zebah and Zalmunna and ordered his young son Jether to kill them. When the lad declined, Gideon rose and executed the kings himself (8:21).
Thus died the four kings of Midian, as the Psalmist Asaph much later noted in what became known as Psalm 83 (83:11).
🔼Etymology of the name Zalmunna
The name Zalmunna consists of two elements. The first part is probably the noun צל (sel) meaning shade or shadow, from the verb צלל (salal), meaning to be or grow dark:
There appear to be at least two verbs צלל (salal): one means to ring like a bell, and the other means to be or become dark. How or whether these two relate isn't clear and ultimately up to anyone's poetic palate.
Noun צלצל (silsal) means a whirring or buzzing. The exact same noun צלצל (silsal) describes a fish-spear or harpoon and the highly similar noun צלצל (selasal) denotes a whirring locust. Plural nouns צלצלים (selselim) and מצלתים (mesiltayim) denote musical percussion instruments such as cymbals. Noun מצלה (mesilla) means bell.
Frequently used noun צל (sel) means shade or shadow and is often employed to describe the transitoriness of life (a mere shadow). Noun צלמות (salmawet) literally means the shadow of death and denotes a distressful and deep darkness.
A possible third identical verb צלל (salal) means to sink or submerge, although it may very well derive from the previous.
The second part appears to derive from the verb מנע (mana'), meaning to withhold, keep back or refrain:
The verb מנע (mana') means to withhold, keep back or refrain. It has no extant derivations.
For a meaning of the name Zalmunna, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Deprived Of Shade and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Shadow Is Withheld. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of this name.