Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
צוה ציה צי
The two roots צוה (swh) and ציה (syh) are similar in form but their meanings (either to command or to be dry) don't come close. Still, for some reason, the Bible's symbolic structure appears to insist on a relation between the two: One of the two names of the mountain upon which Moses received the Law from God, is Horeb, which means Dry Place. Also note that the word Torah comes from a verb that also yields a word for rain.
Perhaps the notion of a dry place taps into the creation account, and specifically the third day, or into the account of Noah's flood. A dry place is not a place where people die of thirst, but rather a place where the sea is no more, after it has given all her treasures (Revelation 21:1).
Note that both roots treated below yield a form ציון (sion), which is identical to the spelling of the name Zion. And there are two words of the form צי (sy); one of which is related to our two roots but it's not clear which one.
The root-verb צוה (sawa) means to command or charge. This verb may either be used to describe someone exerting his will upon someone else (1 Samuel 17:20), a group (2 Samuel 21:14), a situation (Psalm 33:9, Isaiah 45:12), or it may be used to convey the transfer of power from one person to another (Numbers 27:18, 1 Samuel 13:14). This verb yields the following derivations:
- The masculine noun ציון (siyun), meaning signpost or monument (2 Kings 23:17, Ezekiel 39:15, Jeremiah 31:21 only). Note that this word is spelled the same as ציון (siyun), meaning dry place (see below).
- The feminine noun מצוה (miswa), meaning commandment. A commandment can come from the king (1 Kings 2:43), it can denote a title of property (Jeremiah 32:11), or it can denote the wisdom code in its entirety (Proverbs 19:16). Preceded by the definite article, the commandment, means the full code of the law (2 Chronicles 8:13, Ezra 10:3, Psalm 19:8).
- The masculine noun צו (saw), meaning command. This word — "dubious" according to BDB Theological Dictionary — appears only in contexts that seem to ridicule (Hosea 5:11, Isaiah 28:10-13).
- The feminine noun ציה (siya), meaning dryness or drought (Hosea 2:5, Psalm 105:41, Job 24:19).
- The masculine noun ציון (sayon), meaning dryness or parched land (Isaiah 25:5 and 32:2 only).
The masculine noun צי (si I) means ship. It's a loan-word from Egyptian (the more common Biblical word for ship is אניה, 'oniya) and is used about four times in the Bible, in singular in Isaiah 33:21 and in plural (צים) in Numbers 24:24, Ezekiel 30:9. In Daniel 11:30 occurs the plural ציים. Note that the JSP reads for Isaiah 23:13: "Asshur founded it for shipmen," while the other dominant modern translation take this instance of צי to be the next one:
The identical masculine noun צי (si II) denotes some kind of creature, but it's not clear what kind. Some scholars derive this noun from the root צוה (sawa, treated above), which would indicate that this creature was a bit of a barker (an identical verb in Arabic means to yelp, curiously enough), but most go with the root ציה (syh, see above) and figure that this word denotes a kind of desert-creature. In fact, that might be precisely what our word is: a collective term for desert-dwellers.
Our noun occurs six times and always in plural: ציים: Psalm 72:9 and 74:14, Jeremiah 50:39, Isaiah 13:21, 23:13 and 34:14. Most translations interpret the occurrence in Psalm 72:9 as human desert-dwellers since they are instructed to bow down to the king. The Young translation even speaks of a people called Ziim in the Isaiah and Jeremiah references.