How Luz Gets Its Name – Judges 1.23-26

I was reading the Book of Judges this morning and though it was interesting how Luz supposedly get its name. (Check here for the wider context of Judges 1.23-26).

Judges 1.23-26

23 The house of Joseph sent out spies to Bethel (the name of the city was formerly Luz). 24 When the spies saw a man coming out of the city, they said to him, “Show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” 25 So he showed them the way into the city; and they put the city to the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26 So the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city, and named it Luz; that is its name to this day. (NRSV)

Why Luz?

So, why does this place get the name Luz when a man leaves his city (which oddly was already called Luz) and lets some spies know how to get into it to kill everyone?  Well, it’s hard to say because the lexicons are not very uniform on what the meaning of the word “luz” is.  The verbal root of luz is rendered “to turn aside, depart” (Brown-Driver-Briggs) and “to be lost to one’s sight” (Holladay).   Some of the derivatives of this word have to do with “deceit” or “cunning.”  However, a noun of the same spelling means “almond tree” (Brown-Driver-Briggs, Holladay).

I think the former verbal root and the derivatives from it give the idea as to how Luz gets its name.  It gets its name because a man who was “departing” his city when the Israelites came founded it.  Maybe because  a “deceitful,” treacherous man founded it, though I’m not sure the Israelite author would have viewed the man so negatively.  But, maybe it was named such on account of almond trees.