Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
חרה חרר נחר חור
There's one root חרה (hara) and three roots חרר (harar), which officially have nothing to do with each other. And then there is a group of words spelled חור (hur), which is also officially not related to the previous. And to top it off: there's a small group of words obviously derived from a root נחר (nahar), which is identical to a certain grammatical form of the aforementioned verb חרר (harar). None of these word groups are officially related but there are some very clear similarities in form and meaning. So clear even that one may wonder if the ancient Hebrews actually knew that these words were not related.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the root חרר (harar) originally described a source of heat, smoke and ashes around which a society became organized. This word may even originally stem from ancient descriptions of volcanoes, but more recently it may have described a tribe's central fire, which centered the tribe and protected it from wild animals, and which later still evolved into kilns and ovens to produce earthenware and finally metals, and thus better tools and weapons, which in turn resulted in a stronger, safer and more prosperous nation.
Even today, a country's position in the international pecking order depends largely on that country's ability to concentrate energy, and since heat and light in the Bible serve as very common metaphors for knowledge and power, these words passed onto society's leading elite when societies sufficiently stratified. Today we speak of a national top dog as someone who has his or her finger on the button, and in antiquity likewise rulers were dubbed "hot ones."
But that's our guess.
The verb חרה (hara) means to burn or ignite. Cognate languages use this verb in the regular sense of fire starting, but in Biblical Hebrew this verb is exclusively used in the sense of being or getting furious; the burning of anger (Genesis 39:19, Exodus 22:23).
This verb's derivations are:
- The masculine noun חרון (haron), meaning the burning of anger (Exodus 32:12, Numbers 25:4, Ezra 10:14).
- The masculine noun חרי (hori), meaning a burning (Exodus 11:8, 1 Samuel 20:34).
What seems like a close cousin of the previous root, the verb חרר (harar I) means to be hot, burned or charred (Isaiah 24:6, Ezekiel 24:10). This verb often occurs in a figurative sense: the burning of bones of sick men in fever (Job 30:30, Ezekiel 15:4); to kindle strife (Proverbs 26:21).
This verb's derivations are:
- The masculine noun חרר (harer), meaning parched place (Jeremiah 17:6 only).
- The masculine noun חרחר (harhur), meaning violent heat or fever (Deuteronomy 28:22 only).
The root חרר (hrr II) is not used in the Bible but in cognate languages it consistently means to be or become free.
In extant Hebrew it yields the one derivation: the masculine noun חר (hor), meaning noble or nobleman. This word occurs only in the plural — חרים (horim) — to denote a social stratus (1 Kings 21:8, Jeremiah 39:6).
The unused root חרר (hrr III) yields:
- The masculine noun חר (hor), meaning hole (2 Kings 12:10, 1 Samuel 14:11, Nahum 2:13).
- The masculine noun חור (hor), also meaning hole or rather cavern (Isaiah 42:22).
The verb נחר (nhr) isn't used in the Biblical narrative (with the possible exception of Jeremiah 6:29) and we don't know what it might have meant. But nouns that are derived from this root do appear, and similar-meaning cognate nouns show up all over the Semitic language spectrum. The derivatives are:
- The masculine noun נחר (nahar), a snorting (the vigorous, passionate snorting of a horse, Job 39:20 only).
- The feminine equivalent נחרה (naharah), also meaning a snorting (Jeremiah 8:6 only);
- The masculine noun נחיר (nahir), meaning nostril (Job 41:12 only).
A certain grammatical form of the verb חרר (harar I, or so it is assumed) also leads to נחר (nhr). This happens in three places in the Bible:
- In Psalm 69:3, where Green translates it with scorched and NAS with parched.
- Ezekiel 15:4, where Green and NAS both translate with charred.
- Jeremiah 6:29, where Green translated with blow, and NAS has blow fiercely. These two translations obviously seem to derive this occurrence of the form נחר (nhr) from the nostril-group of words, but most scholars deny that this verb occurs in the Bible, and ascribe even this occurrence to the verb חרר (harar I).
The verb חור (hawar I) means to be or grow white (Isaiah 29:22). Its derivatives are:
- The masculine noun חור (hur), meaning something white, linen or white material (Esther 1:6 and 8:15).
- The masculine noun חורי (huray), also meaning white stuff (Isaiah 19:9)
- The masculine noun חרי (hori), meaning white bread or cake (Genesis 40:16).
The root חור (hwr II) is not used in Biblical Hebrew but in cognate languages it means to bend or turn, or as a noun it means hollow or depressed ground between hills. Its sole derivative is the masculine noun חר (hor), meaning hollow. This noun occurs only once in Scriptures, in Numbers 33:32.