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Meaning and etymology of the name Mizraim

Mizraim Mizraim

Mizraim is a son of Ham, son of Noah (Genesis 12:10). This name is also the common name for Egypt (which is also known as 'the land of Ham,', for instance in Psalm 105:23).

Egypt was known by the names Musuru, Musru, Misir or Masri in other languages, and Mizraim is probably simply a phonetic transliteration into Hebrew of any of them. The word Mizraim looks identical to what a dual form of mzr would look like (see below). This duality possibly helped to denote Upper and Lower Egypt. The word for Egyptian is Egyptian.

The similar masor (masor), a poetic nickname for Egypt that is used on three different occasions (Isaiah 19:6, 2 Kings 19:24 = Isaiah 37:25, Micah 7:12), may shed some understanding on how a Hebrew audience might have interpreted the name Mizraim.

The noun masor (masor) means siege, entrenchment, and it derives from the verb swr (sur), bind, besiege. Another derivation of this same verb is the noun mesura, stronghold. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that a stronghold or walled city may be an instrument of protection during the first stages of a war, but will turn into a lethal trap if a siege last long. A beautiful figurative use of this word occurs in Psalm 31:21, where the author compares himself under siege by his troubles.

The verb swr from which the noun masor derives, is part of a group of five different roots. These roots all have different linguistic sources but were perhaps readily incorporated into the Hebrew language due to similar or related meanings, more or less:
swr (swr) is the assumed root of the words sawwar (sawwar), neck and sawwaron (sawwaron), necklace. The neck is simply a part of the body, but figuratively it is used as seat of strength (Job 39:19) and subsequently as target of defeat (by the placing of the victor's foot on the neck of the conquered - Joshua 10:24). The similarity between a necklace and a besieging army is obvious.
The verb swr (sur) means to bind or besiege; referred to above.
The verb swr (sur) means show hostility to, be an adversary. According to BDB Theological Dictionary and HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, this verb is probably a by-form of sarar (sarar), see below.
The verb swr (sur) means to form or fashion. According to HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, this verb is possibly a by-form of yasar (yasar), form or fashion.
The noun swr (sur) does not occur in the Bible, but is probably related to words in cognate languages that mean rock or hill. A derivative that does occur in the Bible is swr (sur), the common Biblical word for rock. BDB Theological Dictionary suggests relations with sarar (sara), see below.

The words swr and sarar are linguistically closely related. Their respective meanings also shows much kinship:
The verb sarar (sarar) means to bind, be narrow/ confined, be in distress. Derivatives are: sar (sar), narrow, tight; sar (sar), distress; sara (sara), straights, distress; sarar (sarar), suffer distress; seror (seror), bundle; mzr (mesar), straights, distress. The latter word written in a dual form would yield the name Mizraim, Mizraim. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names assumed that this is what Mizraim would have meant to a Hebrew audience and reads Double Distress.
The verb sarar (sarar) means show hostility towards. Derivation sar (sar) means adversary.
The assumed root sarar (srr) is unused in the Bible but in Arabic it means be sharp. Its common derivative is sar (sar), pebble, flint.

The name Mizraim means Double Distress or Double Stronghold.

Related names are Zur and Tyre.



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