🔼The name Zoheleth: Summary
- From the verb זחל (zahal), to crawl or shrink away.
🔼The name Zoheleth in the Bible
The name Zoheleth — or rather more complete: Eben-zoheleth (אבן הזחלת), the Stone of Zoheleth — occurs only once in the Bible.
When king David was old and the kingdom would have to be transferred to his successor pretty soon, David's son Adonijah, son of Haggith, figured he would be a proper recipient. He declared himself king and organized a ritual, at which sheep, oxen and fatlings were sacrificed at Eben-zoheleth, near En-rogel (1 Kings 1:9).
David heard of all these goings on and swiftly had Solomon anointed king at Gihon. Noise of the subsequent celebrations reached the guests of Adonijah, who rapidly dispersed. Adonijah ran to the altar of YHWH and grabbed its horns, and Solomon forgave him his folly.
🔼Etymology of the name Zoheleth
The name Zoheleth comes from the verb זחל (zahal), meaning to shrink back or crawl away:
The verb זחל (zahal) means to shrink back or crawl away and is used to describe "crawling things," i.e. snakes.
Because our verb appears to be reserved for the motion of snakes and such, the name Zoheleth is commonly interpreted to denote some kind of snake deity — see for a closer look at the ubiquitous snake-themed mythology of the Bible our article on the name Leviathan.
Hence for a meaning of the name Zoheleth, both Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and NOBSE Study Bible Name List read Serpent (in a footnote of the text, NOBSE translates the phrase "stone of Zoheleth" as Gliding or Serpent Stone).
BDB Theological Dictionary notes that our name also occurs in Arabic, as Zuhal, and is applied to Saturn, literally: "he who withdraws," possibly on account of 'Saturn's remoteness,' which seems a bit generous considering that, according to mainstream chronology, the ancients had little means to know about Saturn's remoteness.