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Meaning and etymology of the name Serah

Serah Serah

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).

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 Serah (Serah) and and Sarah (Sarah) - even the Masoretic symbols are identical - but seems to overlook a crucial difference: Serah is spelled with a final he (he) while Sarah comes with the final heth (heth), 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 daleth (daleth or d) and resh (resh or r); and the letters waw (waw or w/u) and zayin (zayin or z) and the letters samekh (samekh or s) and the final mem (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. 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 shin (shin or sh) and sin (sin or s) - see the shift of the dot on top - but at some point the singular letter dotless shin 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 sin (sin or s) and the already existing letter samekh (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 shibboleth (shibboleth), meaning an ear of corn. The Ephraimites pronounced that word as sibboleth (sibboleth), which identified as the enemy and got 42,000 of them killed. The scribes who penned down this story chose to write the impossible word sibboleth as the even more impossible sibboleth (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 shin, a sin or a samekh, 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 serah (serah) does not exists but the word sarah (sarah) does. It means to go free, be unrestrained or grow luxuriously (Exodus 26:12, Ezekiel 17:6, 23:15). The derived noun serah (serah) means excess or overhanging, and occurs only in Exodus 26:12.

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



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