🔼The name Zuph: Summary
- From the noun צוף (sup), honeycomb.
🔼The name Zuph in the Bible
There appear to be two different men and one region named Zuph in the Bible, although it seems likely that the latter two were named after the first. The exact who and what about Zuph is a bit shady, however. The Zuphs mentioned in the Bible are:
- The great-great-great-grandfather of Samuel, who is mentioned in 1 Samuel 1:1 but not in 1 Chronicles 6:16-30, which deals with the lineage of Samuel from Levi down.
- A son of Elkanah, who was the great-great-grandfather of Elkanah, the father of Samuel according to 1 Chronicles 6:35. In 1 Chronicles 6:26 this man is called Zophai. The Masoretes believed that this man's name should have been spelled ציף (Ziph), which indicates that the Masoretes believed that these name-lists are about something more than just genealogies (here at Abarim Publications we share this belief, but we specifically suspect that these name-lists also serve to commemorate the evolution of Yahwistic thought, but that's beside the point right now).
- A region in Ephraim, where young Saul ended up looking for his father's donkeys and finding Samuel (1 Samuel 9:5). Since this place was associated with Samuel, it's also linked to Ramah (1 Samuel 8:4) and Ramathaim-zophim (1 Samuel 1:1).
🔼Etymology of the name Zuph
The name Zuph is identical to the noun צוף (sup), meaning honeycomb, from the verb צוף (sup) to flow or float on top of:
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 Zuph, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Honeycomb and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Sweet, Honey. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of our name but does confirm that it is identical to the noun צוף (sup), meaning honeycomb.