Shinar meaning | Shinar etymology

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Shinar in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Shinar in the Bible

Shinar is the region in southern Mesopotamia where Nimrod's kingdom commenced. It is also the location of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:2). Scholars generally assume that Shinar is the Hebrew interpretation of what is commonly referred to as Sumer.

By the time of the invasion of Canaan, Shinar was a hot spot of culture and wealth. When Achan foolishly purloined some of Ai's spoil, his interests were also kindled by a robe from Shinar, which was then apparently as recognizable as an Armani coat is now (Joshua 7:21).

Shinar was also among the destination of exiled Judahites (Daniel 1:2) but through the prophet Isaiah, YHWH promised to bring His people home from there (Isaiah 11:11). In one of his enigmatic visions, the prophet Zechariah foresaw a temple dedicated to Wickedness in Shinar (Zechariah 5:11).

Etymology and meaning of the name Shinar

The etymology or meaning of the name Shinar is not known for sure, but various possibilities exist.

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives it from שער (sh'r I):

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The core idea of root שער (sh'r I) is to split open, to break through. Thus, for a meaning of the name Shinar, Jones reads Casting Out, or Scattering In All Manner Of Ways, but admits that "the derivation, however, is very uncertain."

More appealing is the root group נער (na'ar I, II & III):

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Any of these roots preceded by the relative particle שׁ, meaning who, which, that, yields That What Is Young (or Shakes, Growls).

The name Shinar may even remind a Hebrew audience of a combination of the words שן (shin), tooth, from the verb שנן (shanan), sharpen, both literally and figuratively of the mind or intellect; and ער ('ar), foe, an Aramaic loan word which is very sporadically used in the Hebrew text of the Bible. The latter may also be a contraction of the much more common word עיר ('ir), city. That would bring the meaning of Shinar to Tooth Town, or City Of Wit.

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