When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. (Genesis 26:34)

According to Hebrew etymology (Strong's concordance), "Judith" comes from the Hebrew "Yehudit" (sorry for the approximate transliteration) which comes from the Jewish patriarch Judah. But Judah hadn't been born yet. What happened?

And why would an Hittite name their child a different ethnic name anyway? It would be like if I named my kid "Japanese."

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    Could not Judith have been named after some other person from earlier in time? And then Judah son of Jacob could later have been given the same name. ¶ And someone born in Georgia was named Dakota Fanning. Paris Hilton was born in New York. Etc. (and Paris is a male name). Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 20:01

3 Answers 3


The names of Esau's two wives mentioned in Gen 26:34 have caused much puzzlement for several reasons:

  • The two women, Judith and Basemath, are specifically listed as daughters of Hittites who spoke an Indo-European language (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittite_language ) and NOT a semitic language; yet they have semitic names!
  • The names of these women differ from those listed in Gen 36:1, with different father as well (This is another question entirely). Judith does not appear at all in Gen 36:1.

The name "Judith" is a feminine form of "Judah" which probably means "praised" (BDB). The feminine form, "Judith" has the same meaning, but applied to a woman.

Thus, there is priority problem here - a woman is given the name "praised". The only surprising fact is that woman was not Semitic or Hebrew. However, as in NT times, people living in multi-liguistic environments often had several names depending on the local language; perhaps "Judith" was simply her Hebrew name and she also had another Indo-European (Hittite) name. However, this cannot be confirmed; but the different list in Gen 36:1 hints at this.

Note the comments of Ellicott:

Judith.—The names are remarkable, as showing that the Hittites spoke a Semitic tongue. Judith is the feminine form of Judah, and means praised. Beeri can scarcely be the original name of her father, as it means well-finder, but was probably gained by his skill in discovering water. We find it, however, in the genealogy of Hosea (Hosea 1:1). Bashemath or Basmath, the fragrant, was the name also of a daughter of Solomon (1 King 4:15); and Elon, oak-grove, was the name of a judge (Judges 12:11).


I think it is a matter of a common origin for both and not lateral borrowing. The -ith ending is a later Jewish feminine, the earlier being the familiar -ah ending. and it can easily be a back reference as when we say "When President Washington was a child" -- though he was not president then. If she married Esau she would have had a name that would be appropriate to her new social setting and it would be used in time references where it was not actually her name


There is an answer to this question in the Jewish tradition (See Rashi to Genesis 36:2; Midrash Sechel Tov to Genesis 26:34) that Esau gave his wives Hebrew names to show that his wives were foresaking their families and idolatry and joining the family of Isaac and service of G-d. The name change signified a new life as a member of the tribe of the Hebrews.

To this day, converts to Judaism are given a new Hebrew name at the time of conversion.

In the case of Esau's wives however it was just for show, and Isaac and Rebekah were upset. (Genesis 26:35, 27:46) Eventually leading Esau to take a new wife from the daughters of Ishmael. (Genesis 28:8-9)

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