🔼The name Zophar: Summary
- Chirper, Leaper
- From the noun צפור (sippor), to chirp or to leap.
🔼The name Zophar in the Bible
There's only one Zophar in the Bible. Zophar the Naamathite is one of the three (and later four) friends who discuss with the unfortunate Job the finer points of righteousness and divine intervention (Job 2:11).
But the Book of Job is obviously more than a fictional debate between five fictional friends. It appears to be a piece of comparative theology, which looks at the five dominant theologies of the Levant during the patriarchal period; Job obviously representing an early form of Yahwism. Which strand of the wisdom tradition Zophar represents is unclear, but possibly one that primarily aimed at peace and prosperity.
Zophar is the last of the three to speak; first Eliphaz the Temanite has a go at Job, and then Bildad the Shuhite. When, after thirty chapters, there's nothing left for the three to say, friend number four, Elihu the Buzite, chimes in (Job 32:2). Zophar's name is spelled צופר in Job 2:11 and צפר everywhere else.
🔼Etymology of the name Zophar
The origin of the name Zophar can be traced back to the root cluster צפר:
The most fundamental meaning of the unused verb צפר (sapar) appears to be to skewer or pierce through, whether by fear, a shrieking sound or a sharp point. From this verb comes the often used noun צפור (sippor), which is a common word for bird and appears to refer to birds' signature piercing shrieks.
Then there is the noun צפירה (sepira), which apparently denoted a kind of head gear, like a crown or diadem, but which also served as a symbol for looming doom. Noun צפרן (sipporen) means finger nail or stylus point.
However, there is another verb in cognate languages, which is identical to the previous and which means to leap. From it stem the noun צפיר (sapir), which describes a kind of goat, and צפרדע (separdea'), which means frog.
For a meaning of the name Zophar, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derive it from the first verb צפר (sapar) and read Chirper (NOBSE) and Chirping, Insolence (Jones).
BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of the name Zophar but does list it under the second verb צפר (sapar). That would possibly give Zophar the meaning of Leaper.