🔼The name Ziphion: Summary
- Gaze, Cover, Hidden
- From the verb צפה (sapa), to cover.
🔼The name Ziphion in the Bible
The name Ziphion occurs only once in the Bible. In Genesis 46:16 Ziphion is listed as the first of the seven sons of Gad, the seventh son of Jacob and the first of Zilpah, which makes Ziphion one of the sixty-six proto-Israelites who moved to Goshen in Egypt.
By the time of the second census of Israel, Ziphion was remembered as צפון, Zephon, and his progeny was collectively known as צפוני, the Zephonites (Numbers 26:15).
Note that the name Zephon is spelled the same as the second part of the name Baal-zephon (please revert to that name for a discussion of a possible meaning).
🔼Etymology of the name Ziphion
The name Ziphion appears to be drawn 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 (rabbit).
The waw-nun upon which our name ends is a common way to quantify a verb; to express a discrete portion of whatever the verb does.
BDB Theological Dictionary lists Ziphion under the verb צפה I (sapa I) and interprets it as Gaze (but also adds a question mark).
NOBSE Study Bible Name List does not interpret the name Ziphion but reads Watching for Zephon, which means that NOBSE sees Zephon as an inconsequential adaptation of Ziphion and not a whole other name. That's debatable.
Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) insists that the waw-nun upon which our name ends really functions as an intensifier, takes the broader Semitic meaning of the verb צפה I (sapa I) and translates the name Ziphion with Earnest Expectation or Intense Longing.