After finishing 2 Kings yesterday, with its sad ending of Judah joining Israel in exile. 1 Chronicles takes us back to the beginning--all the way back, to the first man. Chronicles continues the names and lines of Jewish tribes, making it possible for post-exile Jews to affirm their Jewish identity.
Important, personal records--but also boring.
So imagine my surprise when five words into the first chapter, in between all those names I do recognize (Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah), I run across Mahalalel.
You see, recently I have undertaken a study of popular boy's and girl's names throughout U.S. History. One appeared during Colonial times through the early nineteenth century which I had never heard before: Mahala.
Not exactly the same name, but close enough to suggest they come from the same root word. Biblical names were very common in colonial times, but Mahala didn't sound like any name I had ever heard before.
So I looked up the girl's name, Mahala. Its origins are uncertain: in eastern Europe, it's a last name (or maybe that was Mahalalel) referring to a community or neighborhood. There is even a town named Mahala in Texas.
Several sites trace "Mahala" to Cherokee roots, where the name means "woman."
Community. Woman. Great building blocks.
Even the Hebrew word has different meanings, either tenderness or barenness. Since I doubt any parent would name their child "barren," I suspect they meant "tenderness."
If we combined all the meanings, we might have a woman characterized by tenderness who lives in a recognizable, vibrant community. A lovely meaning.
I've always been fascinated. As a child I hated my name: Darlene Hope (Sparks). I know that "hope" came from "now abideth these three, faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity." When I learned that Darlene means "beloved," I rejoiced in the blessing my parents had given me in my name: beloved hope. What greater gifts could they give to me, than the security of love and the motivation of hope?
I might just have to write that Boston tea party story and name my heroine Mahala.