Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
Some scholars recognize three verbs חרב (hrb) while others see only two. But however many there are in theory, in practice the two or three groups of meanings are not all that far apart (see the note below):
The verb חרב (hareb I) means to dry up, be in ruins, lay waste. This verb sounds very negative and it is so, most of the time, but it all depends from which angle we look at it. Looking from the memory of a beautiful city, waste land is worthy of fierce lament (Jeremiah 25:11). Looking from the face of the deep however, the first signs of dry land is reason to be exceedingly glad. (Genesis 8:13).
Where BDB Theological Dictionary divides this root in two, HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament observes, "The verb hareb originally meant 'to be dry.' Secondarily it and its derivatives denoted, on the one hand, the heat which caused dryness, and on the other, the desolation of waste areas, the devastation caused by wars".
Its derivations are:
- The adjective חרב (hareb), meaning dry (Leviticus 7:10, Proverbs 17:1) or desolate (Jeremiah 33:10, Nehemiah 2:3).
- The masculine noun חרב (horeb), meaning dryness (Genesis 31:40, Judges 6:37), or desolation (Isaiah 61:4, Jeremiah 49:13). This word also serves as the name Horeb.
- The feminine noun חרבה (horba), meaning waste or ruins (Leviticus 26:31, Isaiah 5:17).
- The feminine noun חרבה (haraba), meaning dry land (Genesis 7:22, Exodus 14:21).
- The masculine noun חרבון (herabon), meaning drought (Psalm 32:4 only).
Where the previous verb may denote the ruins after a siege or a wasted land after a war, the verb חרב (hareb II) denotes the actual fighting. It means to fight (2 Kings 3:23) or slay (Jeremiah 50:21 and 50:27). The verb occurs a mere three times in the Bible, but its sole derivative is much more prevalent: the masculine noun חרב (hereb), meaning sword.
The sword is the most mentioned weapon in the Bible; it occurs 407 times. It occurs frequently in combination with the word פה (peh), meaning mouth. The 'mouth' of a sword is usually interpreted to be its edge (Genesis 34:26, 2 Samuel 2:26).
These two verbs are really quite adjacent in Hebrew thought. Note that the word מדבר (midbar) means wilderness (or desert), and the related verb דבר (dabar) means to speak. When Paul augments Isaiah's spiritual armor, he adds the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (in Hebrew: dabar YHWH; Ephesians 6:17; Isaiah 59:17, also see Isaiah 49:2 and Revelation 19:15). Words commonly protrude from one's mouth, and the mouth is typically a wet place, not a dry place. But it should be noted that the Meribah incident occurred at Horeb (Exodus 17:6), "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink".