Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
Scholars report that there are two separate roots of the form פאר (p'r) in Hebrew, but at second glance these might not be so separate at all:
The root-verb פאר (pa'ar I) means to glorify. It's used of people glorifying themselves by boasting (Judges 7:2, Isaiah 10:15), but more often of YHWH glorifying Himself in Israel (Isaiah 44:23, 49:3) or in the Branch (Isaiah 60:21) or His planting (Isaiah 61:3). Remember these typically agricultural metaphors for when we will discuss פאר (p'r II) below.
In Exodus 8:5, Moses asks of the Pharaoh to "glorify" him with an answer to his question, which appears to be a colloquial expression such as we have "excuse me, but could you please tell me..". or "could you do me the honor of telling me.."..
This verb comes with the following derivations:
- The masculine noun פאר (pe'er), which denotes an ornate headdress like a turban. Headdresses like these were worn by priests (Exodus 39:28, Ezekiel 44:18), by bridegrooms (Isaiah 61:10) or otherwise celebrating happy people (Isaiah 61:3), including women (Isaiah 3:20).
- The feminine noun תפארה (tip'ara), meaning beauty or glory. This noun is used fifty-one times and forty-nine times in a construct: denoting the beauty of something (the exceptions being Isaiah 28:5 and Jeremiah 48:17). This beauty may be the beauty of garment (Isaiah 52:1), jewels (Ezekiel 16:7), a flock of sheep (Jeremiah 13:20), a man (Isaiah 44:13), a flower (Isaiah 28:1), the temple of YHWH (1 Chronicles 22:5). It may denote the glory of the high priest (Exodus 28:1), or of a consecrated people (Deuteronomy 26:19, Jeremiah 13:11). It may denote the glorious crown of wisdom (Proverbs 4:9), or that of gray hair (Proverbs 16:31), or that of Zion (Isaiah 62:3). It may describe the glory of a king (Esther 1:4), the house of David or the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:7). But mostly it describes YHWH (Psalm 71:8, 1 Chronicles 29:11) and His various attributes (Isaiah 63:14, Psalm 96:6).
It's unclear whether this second root פאר (p'r II) actually exists and what it might mean. Perhaps it isn't even a separate root but rather a secondary nuance of this particular form of glorification. The derivations of this root (or the expressions of the previous root that can be grouped in this secondary cluster) are:
- The feminine noun פארה (po'ra), meaning branch or twig, but always with the connotation of glory or pride. Another important word that means glory is כבד (kabed), which also means to give weight (even to make fat). Perhaps the particular kind of glory that is expressed in פאר (pa'ar) can be associated with the branching out of a tree (Ezekiel 31:5, Isaiah 10:33) or a vine (Ezekiel 17:6; compare with John 15:5). Remember the usage of the previous verb in the typically agricultural metaphors of Isaiah 60:21 and Isaiah 61:3.
- The denominative verb פאר (pa'ar), which only occurs in Deuteronomy 24:20, where the Lord prohibits a "branching" "after" or "behind", when harvesters are collecting olives by shaking the trees limbs. This verb is usually explained to mean a "going over the branches" once more, but that's probably not what is meant. The harvesters aren't "hitting the branches" once again, they are progressing in one direction, as branches do, and should not go in the opposite direction to see what they dropped. Whatever they dropped is for the poor and aliens. Note that there are several other verbs that describe a going straight or level as highly virtuous, for instance: אשר ('ashar) and ישר (yashar).
- The masculine noun פארור (par'ur), the meaning of which is unknown. It occurs twice in the Bible (Joel 2:6, Nahum 2:10), but in the same construct, namely: frightened people's faces (פנים, panim) gather (קבץ, qabas) פארור (par'ur). Some scholars figure these frightened faces gather beauty. Others say they gather a glow. The modern NAS and NIV versions, as well as the ASV, Darby and Young translations have the faces grow pale. In the King James they gather blackness. But all of these are guesses and extrapolations made by means of the context. Here at Abarim Publications we guess that this odd facial gathering is a colloquial expression of the kind that occurs in Job 4:15, Psalm 119:120, Ezekiel 27:35 and 32:10, namely that of hair (שער, se'ar) standing up with fear. After all, it's not a great poetic leap to go from the branches of a tree to the hairs of someone's head, and from the hairs on someone's head to the turban described above (also see 1 Corinthians 11:1-16).