🔼The name Zelzah: Summary
- Dark Glow, Shade In The Heat Of The Sun
- From (1) the noun צל (sel), shadow, and (2) the verb צחח (sahah), to be dazzling or sizzling.
🔼The name Zelzah in the Bible
The name Zelzah occurs only once in the Bible. While looking for his father's donkeys, Saul stumbled upon Samuel, who promptly anointed him the first king of Israel. When he was ready to depart, Samuel told him that when he got to Rachel's tomb at Zelzah in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, two men would tell him that the donkeys were found but that his father was now worried about him (1 Samuel 10:2).
🔼Etymology of the name Zelzah
It's a bit of a mystery where the name Zelzah comes from. The Septuagint didn't even consider Zelzah a name and translated it as a rather inexplicable αλλομενους μεγαλα (allomenous megala), meaning something like Enormous Leap, or Exulting Greatly.
Likewise the Vulgate didn't regard Zelzah as name and translated it as a likewise inexplicable in meridie, meaning In The South.
The origin of the Hebrew name Zelzah is obscure. It's possibly a compound: צל plus צח. The first part, צל, would then derive from the verb צלל (salal):
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.
And the second part of our name may come from the verb צחח (shh), meaning to be sizzling:
The verb צחח (shh) means to be dazzling or sizzling. Adjective צח (sah) means dazzling, glowing or clear. Noun צחיח (sahiah) probably denotes a shining, gleaming or scorching surface. Likewise, nouns צחיחה (sehiha) and צחצחה (sahsaha) denote a scorched land or region.
Adjective צחה (siheh) means parched and derives probably from an unused verb צחה (saha), which is probably a by-form of the previous and means the same.
Note that in Biblical symbolic jargon, water and rain represent the availability of revelations and insights, whereas drought represents the opposite.
For a meaning of the name Zelzah, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes a rather creative Shade In The Heat Of The Sun. Neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor BDB Theological Dictionary offers any suggestion.