Serah meaning | Serah etymology

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Serah in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Serah in the Bible

Serah is the daughter of Asher, the son of Jacob (Genesis 46:17). The only thing we know about her is that she was one of the sixty-six persons who came with Jacob to Egypt to live in Goshen (Genesis 46:26).

Etymology of the name Serah

The sources are divided about where the name might comes from because there's nothing in the Hebrew language that looks like it.

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names notices the high similarity between the names שרח (Serah) and שרה (Sarah) — even the Masoretic symbols are identical — but seems to overlook a crucial difference: Serah is spelled with a ח (heth) while Sarah comes with the ה (he), and although these letters may look alike somewhat, they're really as different as a whale and a fish. Other notorious look-alike letters are the ד (daleth or d) and ר (resh or r); and the letters ו (waw or w/u) and ז (zayin or z) and the letters ס (samekh or s) and the final ם (mem or m at the end of a word).

Perhaps anyone from a Hebrew audience would readily mistake our letter O from the letter D, especially when they are handwritten, but it would be incorrect.

Thus Jones reads Serah as Sarah II and translates both names with Princess, taken from the verb שרר (sarar), meaning to rule or govern:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Here at Abarim Publications we must humbly disagree with this reading. See the name Rahab for a similar confusion.

Another solution to this mystery lies in the events described in Judges 12:6. Originally there was no difference between the letters שׁ (shin or sh) and שׂ (sin or s) — see the shift of the dot on top — but at some point the singular letter ש began to be pronounced in two different ways, either depending on where the speaker was from or else on the word the letter occurred in. But this resulted in a phonetic similarity between the newly arising letter שׂ (sin or s) and the already existing letter ס (samekh or s), and the two began to be interchangeable. This is demonstrated in Judges 12:6, where men of Gilead identify men of Ephraim by making them say the word שׁבלת (shibboleth), meaning an ear of corn. The Ephraimites pronounced that word as שׂבלת (sibboleth), which identified them as the enemy and got 42,000 of them killed. The scribes who penned down this story chose to write the impossible word שׂבלת as the even less possible סבלת (sibboleth with the samekh).

Had the men of Gilead not slain all those men of Ephraim, the Ephraim way might have become standard, and we might have had a completely different Bible now.

But all this means that when we come across a hapax legomenon (that's a word of which only one written occurrence exists) that is spelled with either a שׁ, a שׂ or a ס, should always check to see if there might be a word spelled with any of the others, and that fits the context of the word we're trying to understand. And sure enough, the word שרח (serah) does not exists but the word סרח (sarah) does:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Serah meaning

Ergo, the name Serah means Unrestrained. NOBSE Study Bible Name List, we're happy to report, agrees and reads Abundance.

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