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Meaning and etymology of the name Gerar

Gerar Gerar

The name Gerar is applied only once in the Bible, to a city in Canaan (Genesis 10:19). Israel's ancestors Abraham and Isaac sojourn there.

When Abraham dwells there, Abimelech is king of Gerar, and when Abraham presents his beautiful wife Sarah as his sister (which was not entirely a lie because they have the same father - Genesis 20:12), king Abimelech has her picked up and delivered to him. Since God has the plan to make Sarah the mother of Abraham's son of promise (Genesis 17:16), Abimelech gets straightened out in a dream and returns Sarah to her husband (20:1-18).

When a famine strikes Canaan, Abraham's son Isaac flees to Abimelech, king of Gerar (Genesis 26:1). When the men of Gerar see Isaac's wife Rebekah they like to know more about her, because she too is very beautiful. Isaac, true to form, explains that she is his sister. And that is a lie because Rebekah is a daughter of Isaac's cousin Bethuel, and a granddaughter of his uncle Nahor.

Isaac and Rebekah get found out when Abimelech looks out his window and sees Isaac and Rebekah having a good time (26:8). The verb used to describe how good that time is, is shaha1 (sahaq), meaning to laugh, play, sport or mock. This verb is also the source of the name Isaac.

The name Gerar is not a word that occurs in the Hebrew language. But a Hebrew audience may have heard kinship with any of the members of the root group gur (gur I, II & III):

•  The verb gur (gur) meaning abide, gather, dwell, be a stranger, sojourn. This very common verb is used to describe the various patriarchs' sojourning, as well as that of Israel in Egypt and later Babylon. This verb has a few derivatives, one is gur (ger), meaning sojourner. Another is gerut (gerut), meaning lodging place.
That sojourners were not always looked on with favor shows in the similar verb:
•  gur (gur II), meaning to "stir up trouble or difficulties for someone or among people" (reports HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). A curious derivation of this root is the word gur (gor), meaning whelp; BDB Theological Dictionary rhetorically notes "as quarrelsome?" This word is used in Jeremiah 51:38 in a simile that compares the Babylonians to "whelps," and in Nahum 2:13 where it denotes inhabitants of Nineveh.
•  The verb gur (gur III), meaning to fear or stand in terror of (Numbers 22:3).

The name Gerar may mean Sojourning, or Lodging Place (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) or Region (NOBS Study Bible Name List).



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