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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: ארן
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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

ארן  רנן

There are two different roots ארן ('rn) in the Bible, which are probably not related in any formal sense, but could be construed to belong together anyway. None of the sources hints at a connection between the two roots ארן ('rn) and perhaps they indeed evolved separately, or were imported from other languages and only accidentally became identical in Hebrew. We know that a word similar to aron (see below) occurred in Egyptian, and that it there also denoted some kind of box. But perhaps these words were so readily incorporated into Hebrew because it now seems as if the word aron denotes an item with the same characteristics as a cedar or fir. Perhaps that characteristic is nimbleness, as has been proposed, but perhaps it is strength and durability.

Another possibility is that both roots ארן ('rn) were popularly connected to the verb רנן (ranan), meaning to give a ringing cry (see below):


ארן I

The root ארן ('rn I) isn't used in the Bible so we don't know what it might have meant to Hebrew speakers. But the renowned theologians Simonis and Gesenius assume it is similar to an Arabic verb meaning to be agile or nimble. A Syriac noun seems to be similar, and that denotes a certain kind of wild goat. BDB Theological Dictionary reports of a similar Aramaic noun that too means wild goat.

However, our root also yields the masculine noun ארן ('oren), which means fir or cedar and is used in the Bible only by Isaiah (44:14, along with the curiously look-alike words ארז ('erez) and תרז (tirza), both also denoting trees).

It's possible that our verb ארן ('rn) is related to the verb רנן (ranan; see below), and that the noun ארן ('oren) doesn't denote a specific tree but rather a tree that rustles or creaks in the wind. The sound of the wind through the trees might sound as a large group of people cheering; 1 Chronicles 16:33 has trees sing for joy before the Lord.

ארן II

And then there is the root ארן ('rn II), which also doesn't occur in the Bible. But its derivative ארון ('aron) is the word that is usually translated with Ark (of the covenant, not the Ark of Noah). But this word is not reserved for the Ark. It's also used for the coffin in which Joseph's bones were carried back to Canaan (Genesis 50:26), or the chest in the temple in which money was collected (2 Kings 12:10).

Perhaps this noun ארן ('aron) is related to רנן (ranan) in that it doesn't simply denote some box, but rather an object that was typically designed to be in the middle of cheering and noise.


רנן I

The root-verb רנן (ranan) means to produce a ringing cry. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes that it might be onomatopoeic, and that it is related to a similar Arabic verb that means to cry aloud but also reflects the twang of a released bow string. In modern Hebrew this verb came to denote a less exuberant noise: complaining or murmuring.

In the Bible this verb is used to reflect joyous crying (Isaiah 12:6, Jeremiah 31:7), or crying out of distress (Lamentations 2:19). It's also used for crying done to proclaim something, to exhort or summon (Proverbs 1:20).

This verb's derivations are:

  • The masculine noun רן (ron), meaning a ringing cry (Psalm 32:7 only).
  • The feminine noun רנה (rinna), also meaning a ringing cry (Job 3:7, Psalm 100:1).
  • The feminine noun רננה (renana), also meaning a ringing cry (1 Kings 8:28, 1 Kings 22:36, Isaiah 33:10).
  • The masculine plural noun רננים (renanim), denoting birds that deliver piercing cries (Job 39:13; usually translated with ostriches or peacocks).

Associated Biblical names

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