Among the many peculiar and unusual names found in Tanach, some of them have reasons and explanations for why it was given. And some do not. What about Mispar found in Ezra 2:2.

אֲשֶׁר־בָּאוּ עִם־זְרֻבָּבֶל יֵשׁוּעַ נְחֶמְיָה שְׂרָיָה רְעֵלָיָה מָרְדֳּכַי בִּלְשָׁן מִסְפָּר בִּגְוַי רְחוּם בַּעֲנָה מִסְפַּר אַנְשֵׁי עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל:

who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah: The list of the men of the people of Israel:

Given that the Baalei haMasora and Rashi clarify mispar as a name among all the occurrences of the word, i wonder if any commentaries suggests reasons for naming that person in this way. Any explanations for that, if any?

  • 1
    Why him, specifically?
    – DonielF
    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:24
  • This is a grammatical from. The shoresh is already present in Tora. וספרתם לכם נמצאת השבת מיום הביאכם את עומר התנופה
    – kouty
    Mar 15, 2019 at 5:29
  • Rashi ad loc: "מספר. הראשון פ"א קמוצה בגדול ושם אדם הוא מספר השני פ"א פתוחה ודבוק הוא:"
    – Al Berko
    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:09
  • 1
    Maybe from לספר - like "the story-teller" or לספור - "the counter", or לספר - "the barber" or לספור - "the accountant" etc. We can interpret it very easy as ספר is a very common root in Hebrew.
    – Al Berko
    Mar 15, 2019 at 11:12
  • 1
    @RenatoGrun No, I mean there’s lots of names throughout Tanach - why are you curious about this one specifically?
    – DonielF
    Mar 17, 2019 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


According to Midrash Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (Buber ed.) (Piska 2, p. 20b, at note 174) his full name is “Mispar Bigvai”.

He was thus named, because he was (Mispar) “counted” while (Bigvai) “inside" (in utero).

א"ר לוי בשם ר׳ שמואל בר נחמן, יוכבד נמנית במעי אמה, וכן בעולה גולה בקשו כ״ד משמרות ולא מצאו שלימין, ונמצא "מספר בגוי" (עזרא ב ב) עמהם. מהו "מספר בגוי", שנמנה במעי אמו, לפי שלמוד הקב״ה להיות מונה השבט הזה במעי אמו

א״ר ברכיה הכהן, השרף הזה אינו מספיק לצאת עד שמספיגין אותו, כך היתה אמם של אלו. אמה של יוכבד היתה מעוברת בכניסתה למצרים, ונימנית עמהם. וכן אמו של "מספר בגוי" היתה מעוברת, ונמנה עמהם שנאמר אשר באו עם זרובבל ישוע נחמיה שריה רעליה [מרדכי] בלשון מספר בגוי

  • Note 10 verses later there's another person named just בגוי
    – Double AA
    Mar 17, 2019 at 23:24
  • Therefore? Also note, that there are no children listed for "Mispar". Could it be that he was more known by his second name? In any event, I cited a Midrash, which directly addresses the OP's question. Mar 17, 2019 at 23:32
  • I know and didn't downvote. I just thought that fact was notable. If it's the same dude it's notable that he didn't use his full name. And if it's a different dude then it's weird two people would have such a bizarre name if the literal meaning is as presented here. Alternatively it's a nice Midrash and not Pshat and we shouldn't ask questions.
    – Double AA
    Mar 17, 2019 at 23:35

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