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Israelite Names: From the Book of Judges
From History of Christian Names, by Charlotte M. Yonge, 1884.

The Book of Judges has not furnished many names to collective Europe.  Caleb, the faithful spy, who alone finally accompanied Joshua into the Land of Promise out of all the 600,000 who had come out of Egypt, had a name meaning a dog, seldom copied except by the Puritan taste, and only meeting in one language a personal name of similar signification, namely, the Irish cu (gen.) con.

Caleb's daughter, Achsah, probably from the shortness and pretty sound of her name, which means a tinkling ornament for the ancle, has a good many namesakes in remote village schools, where it is apt to be spelt Axah.  Tirzah (pleasantness) was one of those five daughters of Zelophehad, whose heiresship occupies two chapters of the Book of Numbers.  She probably was the origin of Thirza, the name of Abel's wife in Gessner's idyll of the Death of Abel, a great favourite among the lower classes in England, whence Thyrza has become rather a favourite in English cottages.

Gideon (a feller or destroyer) seems by his martial exploits to have obtained some admirers among the Huguenots of the civil wars of France, for Gédéon was in some small use among them.

The name of the mighty Nazarene, whose strength was in his hair, is not clearly explained.  Schimschon seems best to represent the Hebrew sound, but the Greek had made it Σαμψσων; and our translation, Samson.  Some translate it splendid son, others as the diminutive of sun.

The Greek Church and her British daughter did not forget the mighty man of valour, and Samson was an early Welsh Bishop and saint, from whom this became a monastic appellation, as in the instance of Mr. Carlyle's favourite Abbot Samson.  The French still call it Simson, which is perhaps more like the original; and our Simpson and Simkins may thus be derived from it, when they do not come from Simon, which was much more frequent.

The name of the gentle and faithful Ruth has never been satisfactorily explained.  Some make it mean trembling; others derive it from a word meaning to join together; and others from Reûth (beauty), which is perhaps the best account of it.  In spite of the touching sweetness of her history, Ruth's name has never been in vogue, except under the influence of our English version of the Bible.

Perhaps this may be the fittest place to mention the prevalence of names taken from the river Jordan during the period of pilgrimages.  The Jordan itself is named from Jared (to descend), and perhaps no river does descend more rapidly throughout its entire course than does this most noted stream, from its rise in the range of Libanus to its fall in the Dead Sea, the lowest water in the world.  To bathe in the Jordan was one of the objects of pilgrims, and flasks of its water were brought home to be used at baptisms—as was done for the present family of Royal children.  It was probably this custom that led to the adoption of Jordan as a baptismal name, and it is to be supposed that it was a fashion of the Normans, since it certainly prevailed in countries that they had occupied.  In Calabria, Count Giordano Lancia was the friend of the unfortunate Manfred of Sicily, and recognized his corpse.  Jourdain was used in France, though in what districts I do not know, and Jordan was at one time recognized in England.  Jordan de Thornhill died in 1200; Jordan de Dalden was at the battle of Lewes in 1264, and two namesakes of his are mentioned in the pedigree of his family.  Jordan de Exeter was the founder of a family in Connaught, who became so thoroughly Hibernicized, that, after a few generations, they adopted the surname of, Mac Jordan.  Galileo dei Gailïlei probably took both his names from Galilee, which comes from Galil, a circle.

Bethlem Gabor will seem to the mind as an instance of Bethlehem (the place of bread), having furnished Christian names for the sake of its associations, and Nazarene has also been used in Germany.


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