🔼The name Mizraim in the Bible
🔼Etymology of the name Mizraim
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 מצרים, nevertheless, looks identical to what a dual form of מצר would look like (see below). This duality possibly helped to denote Upper and Lower Egypt. The word for Egyptian is מצרי.
The similar מצור (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 מצור (masor) means siege, entrenchment, and it derives from the verb צור (sur), bind, besiege. Another derivation of this same verb is the noun מצורה, 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 צור from which the noun מצור derives, is part of a group of five different roots:
The word מצר (mesar), meaning straights or distress, written in a dual form would yield the name מצרים, Mizraim. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names assumes that this is what Mizraim would have meant to a Hebrew audience and reads Double Distress. But it should be noted that the name Mizraim means also Double Stronghold and would have reminded of any of the above.
The word מצרים occurs with the meaning of 'distress[ess]' in Lamentations 1:3.