Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The form תלל (tll) appears to cover two distinct roots, but the meanings of these are so adjacent that a Hebrew audience might have concluded that they were intimately related, if not one and the same:
The verb תלל (talal I) does not occur in the Bible but its derivatives make it seem plausible that it meant either to accumulate or to pile up layer upon layer, or else to repeatedly destroy while allowing intermittent periods or recuperation for the explicit purpose of having something to destroy again. The probably homophone verb טלל (talal II) means to cover over or roof.
The derivatives of our verb are:
- The masculine noun תל (tel), which denotes the typical feature of the landscape in the Middle East of a truncated mount formed by layer upon layer of destruction and rebuilding (Joshua 8:28, Deuteronomy 13:17, Jeremiah 49:2). Settlements commonly arise due to attractive or beneficial geographical features, and when a settlement was destroyed by enemies or natural causes, the ruins were often covered over with earth in order to build a new settlement. In a way, the height of the tel would demonstrate the desirability of the location, but at the same time suggest that the place was cursed. Note the following:
- The noun תל (tel) typically denotes a mount of ruin and new beginnings, and although to an untrained eye a tell may share some features with natural hills (הר, har or גבעה, gib'a), natural hills symbolize the gatherings of peoples and thus social progress, whereas the tel tells of precisely the opposite: pain, destruction and having to start all over again on the ruins and efforts of previous generations.
- A failed harvest would also result in a plowing under of the failed stalks, which in turn revitalized the earth.
- In Joshua 11:13 this noun occurs in a defective plural, תלם, which is spelled the same as the noun תלם (telem), meaning furrow.
- The noun תל (tel) is part of the names of three forced settlements of Jews in Babylon.
- The adjective תלול (talul), which occurs only once, namely in Ezekiel 17:22, where it modifies the word הר (har), meaning mountain, together with the adjective גבה (gaboah), meaning high or haughty. Our adjective appears to denote a highness achieved by piling up layers, which in this case would denote the total track record of achievements of Israel (and which appears to be facetious).
- The feminine plural noun תלתלים (taltalim) occurs only once in the Bible (namely in Song of Solomon 5:11) and appears to be a quality attributable to a man's coiffure, or more specifically, his cranial קוצות (qewussot), assumed to mean locks. It seems that these locks of his were arranged in layers that may have resembled the wings of a proverbially black raven (ערב, 'oreb, possibly from the verb ערב, 'rb, meaning to criss-cross), but also of gold and malleable gold-leaf (פז, paz). It seems unlikely that the man's hair was likened to gold because of its color (and also because the black raven supplies a much more plausible hair color) and it must be because of its workmanship, namely that of multiple, craftily arranged layers.
The verb תלל (talal II) does occur in the Bible, but has no derivatives, which suggests that it's the same as תלל (talal I). It means to repeatedly deceive or beguile and doesn't seem that far removed from burying a ruinous heap over and over (Genesis 31:7, Exodus 8:29, Judges 16:10-15).
The verb התל (hatal) appears to be derived from תלל (talal II) and means to mock (saying something silly is really a beguiling for comic purposes). It's used only in 1 Kings 18:27, where Elijah mocks the Baal priests.
Its sole derivative is the masculine plural noun התלים (hatulim), meaning mockery (Job 17:2 only).