Friday, November 4, 2011

The Hebrew Name Ethan

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Ethan is the anglicized form of the Hebrew name Eitan. It means strong and steadfast and also refers to a stream whose water flows throughout the year. Although Ethan is a biblical name, it is not the name of any major character.

There appear to be three different Ethans in the Bible. The first is mentioned in I Kings: “Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east...For he was wiser than all men: than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol” (I Kings 5:10-11). Although I Kings does not identify these men further, one can assume that Mahol was an alternate name for Judah’s son Zerah, as I Chronicles 2:6 lists Zerah’s sons as “Zimri and Ethan and Heman and Calcol and Dara.”

The second Ethan is listed in I Chronicles 6:25, 27, as an ancestor of Asaph the son of Berechiah. This Ethan was the great, great grandson of Gershom the son of Levi.

The third Ethan is also connected to Asaph the son of Berechiah. Both were musicians in the court of David: “David spoke to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren the singers...So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah” (I Chronicles 15:16-17). This is the second mention in Chronicles of this Ethan as he is listed earlier “On the left hand, their brethren, the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi” (I Chronicles 6:29).

The musical Ethan is quite probably the composer of Psalm 89. Although the opening citation is “A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite,” the psalm refers directly to King David, in whose time Ezra the Merari musician lived.

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