Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
קיר קרר קרקע קרה קרא
These four forms קיר (qyr), קרר (qrr), קרה (qrh), and קרא (qr') are not related in any formal way, but their uses, conjugations and derivations seem to overlap:
The masculine noun קיר (qir) is officially of unknown origin, although it appears to also exist in Ugaritic and Canaanite. It's one of several words for wall, but this word denotes mostly a regular, flat room's wall (1 Kings 5:13, Ezekiel 8:7, Amos 5:19), or a flat side of an altar (Exodus 30:3, Leviticus 1:15). Jeremiah speaks of the walls of his heart as the seat of his anguish (Jeremiah 4:19). And in Isaiah 22:5, the prophet speaks of a קר (qr), which is probably a contracted variant of our noun.
The root verb קרר (qarar I) means to be or become cool or cold. This verb occurs all over the Semitic spectrum, but in the Bible it appears only once. In Jeremiah 6:7, the prophet exclaims that Jerusalem keeps her iniquities fresh (cool) the way a well keeps it water fresh (cool).
This verb's derivatives are:
- The adjective קר (qar), meaning cool (of one's spirit: Proverbs 17:27, of water: Jeremiah 18:14).
- The masculine noun קר (qor), meaning cold (Genesis 8:22 only).
- The feminine equivalent of previous: קרה (qara), also meaning cold (Job 24:7, Proverbs 25:20, Nahum 3:17).
- The feminine noun מקרה (meqera), meaning coolness (Judges 3:20 and 3:24 only).
The root verb קרר (qarar II) means to tear down, or so it's assumed. This verb is said to occur only once in the Bible, in Isaiah 22:5, which describes a "day of panic and confusion". On that day something is done to a wall — מקרקר קר (meqarqar qar) — which scholars assume is tearing it down.
In the Masoretic Text of Numbers 24:17, however, this form קרקר (qarqar) also occurs. It's the word that's tied to "the sons of Sheth" (and see our article on the name Sheth for additional considerations.) But scholars (BDB Theological Dictionary, HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) declare that Numbers 24:17 shouldn't read קרקר (qarqar) but קדקד (qadqad), meaning skull, head or crown of the head. This because it would result in an attractive parallel with the crushed "corners" of Moab, and also would create congruence with Jeremiah 48:45, which also deals with the "corners" of Moab and the skulls — (קדקד (qadqad) — of some riotous revelers. On top of all these preferences, the Samaritan Pentateuch indeed reads קדקד (qadqad) in Numbers 24:17.
Modern translations are surprisingly rebellious towards scholarly and Samaritan persuasions. Only the NIV tells of the skulls of the sons of Sheth. NAS has "tear down the sons of Sheth," KJV, Darby and Young have "destroy," and JSP and ASV have "break down".
The curious masculine noun קרקע (qarqa') means floor. It's used sporadically: of the earthen floor of the tabernacle (Numbers 5:17), the floor of the sea (Amos 9:3) and the floor of the temple (1 Kings 6:15-30). BDB suggests that the second time this word occurs in 1 Kings 7:7, it should probably read קורות (qwrwt; see under קרה (qara) below) and be translated with rafters. It's not clear where this word comes from, but BDB states that it may be constructed from a root קרר (qarar). Here at Abarim Publications we suspect it's a synthesis of the word for wall — קיר (qir) or קר (qr) — and the following:
The verb קעקע (q'q') doesn't occur in the Bible but in post-Biblical Hebrew it means to pull, cut or tear down. In Leviticus 19:28 occurs a masculine noun קעקע (qa'aqa), which is probably related to our verb. It's usually translated with mark, imprint or tattoo.
The verb קרה (qara) is a by-form of the verb קרא (qara' II; see below) and generally denotes a meeting of people or things (that which goes on when things or people come together). It's used for a meeting of people(s) (Deuteronomy 25:18), of someone happening upon a field (Ruth 2:3), of harm coming upon someone (Genesis 44:29), of the Word of YHWH coming upon someone (Numbers 11:23), the Lord meeting with folks (Exodus 3:18, Numbers 23:4), the Lord granting expedience to a hunter (Genesis 27:20), cities to appear suitable for people (Numbers 35:11). It's also used in a general, unspecified way: "all that had come upon them" (Genesis 42:29), "that what shall happen" (Isaiah 41:22).
The derivatives of this verb are:
- The masculine noun קרה (qareh), meaning chance or accident (Deuteronomy 23:11 only).
- The masculine noun קרי (qeri), meaning opposition, contrariness (Leviticus 26:21-40 only).
- The masculine noun מקרה (miqreh), meaning accident or chance (1 Samuel 6:9, 20:26, Ruth 2:3 only), or fortune, fate (Ecclesiastes 2:14 only).
- The feminine noun קורה (qora), meaning rafter or beam; the things that come together to form a roof (Genesis 19:8, 2 Chronicles 3:7, Song of Solomon 1:17).
- The denominative verb קרה (qara), meaning to install beams (2 Chronicles 34:11, Nehemiah 3:3, Psalm 104:3).
- The masculine noun מקרה (meqareh), literally place of beams; beam-work (Ecclesiastes 10:18 only).
- The feminine noun קריה (qiryah), meaning city (Deuteronomy 2:36, Hosea 6:8) or a federation of cities (Isaiah 25:3). BDB suggests that this word originally denoted a meeting place of men. This noun is used less than three dozen times in the Bible. The much more common word for city is עיר ('ir). Note that our word ends with a distinct יה (yah), which in personal names always represents a truncated version of יהוה (YHWH or Yahweh). It doesn't do that in our noun, but it certainly would have been noted as a detail of portent by Hebrew poets.
- The feminine noun קרת (qeret), also meaning city (Job 29:7, Proverbs 11:11).
The verb קרא (qara' I) occurs all over the Semitic spectrum and means pretty much the same everywhere: to call, proclaim or read aloud. Although this verb is technically distinct from the verbs קרה (qara) and קרא (qara' II), the idea of meeting or bringing together is obviously also present in this verb.
The meaning of to call (give someone a name) is the oldest and most common usage of our verb (says BDB). It's used first in Genesis 1:5 where Elohim calls the light "day" and the darkness "night". He goes on naming "heaven" (1:8), "earth" and "seas" (1:10). The man He makes names the animals (2:19) and finally Woman (2:23). The first personal name dispensed by means of this verb is that of Eve (3:20). Directly after the fall the Lord calls Adam in order to obtain his attention (3:9), and Cain names the first city Enoch after his son (4:19). When Seth calls his son Enosh, people begin to call upon the name of the Lord (4:26).
The nuances of our verb are legion and pretty much on a par with the usage of the verb to call in English. Our verb is also used in the sense of crying out an indistinct yawp in order to get attention (Judges 9:7, 2 Samuel 18:25), a distinct but unfocused proclamation (Genesis 41:43), a forwarding of one's name (that is, becoming famous; Ruth 4:11), a perpetuation of one's name (Genesis 48:16) or establishing or demonstrating ownership (Jeremiah 15:16). It's used for reading out loud to an audience (Jeremiah 36:6), or for reading to one-self (Deuteronomy 17:19). It may imply a summons (Genesis 12:18), an invitation (Exodus 34:15), an appointment or position (Isaiah 48:15), an endowment (Isaiah 51:2).
The derivations of this verb are:
- The masculine noun קרא (qore'), meaning partridge; literally "a caller" (1 Samuel 26:20, Jeremiah 17:11 only).
- The adjective קריא (qari'), meaning called or summoned (Numbers 1:16 and 16:2 only).
- The feminine noun קריאה (qeri'a), meaning proclamation (Jonah 3:2 only).
- The masculine noun מקרא (miqra'), meaning convocation or called assembly (Exodus 12:16, Isaiah 1:13), or reading (Nehemiah 8:8).
The verb קרא (qara' II) is a by-form of the verb קרה (qara) but is indistinguishable from קרא (qara' I). And it appears to be קרה (qara)'s menace twin, as it more often than not denotes a meeting with war or calamity (Judges 7:24, 1 Kings 20:27, Joshua 11:20). It's also used in the sense of to happen or befall, again mostly in a bad or unpleasant sense (Genesis 42:4, Deuteronomy 31:29, Exodus 1:10). This verb has no known derivatives.