🔼The name Zephath: Summary
- Covering, Watch Tower
- From the verb צפה (sapa), to cover.
🔼The name Zephath in the Bible
The name Zephath occurs only once in the Bible. In the years following the invasion of Canaan, the Israelites were still fighting the indigenous Canaanites. The tribe of Judah, helped with the tribe of Simeon, attacked the Kenites who had moved into Zephath in the Negev, in the southern extreme of Judah, and destroyed it. Afterwards this town was called Hormah (Judges 1:17).
🔼Etymology of the name Zephath
The name Zephath comes from the verb צפה (sapa), meaning to cover:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or coney.
For a meaning of the name Zephath, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with figurative interpretation of our verb reads Watch-tower. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names does the same and also proposes Watch-tower. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret our name and lists it alphabetically under צפת, not anywhere near צפה.