Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
There are four or five different roots חצר (hsr), which officially have nothing to do with each other. But at second glance, they all seem to reflect enclosure, mostly of a form or shape that starts out small and grows larger, like a trumpet:
The unused root חצר (hsr I) occurs in cognate languages with meanings like to encompass, surround or enclose. It's the root of the masculine noun חצר (haser) meaning court or enclosure.
Courts were common in near eastern architecture. Houses were designed around them and the tabernacle and the temple had outer courts; enclosed areas around the actual sanctuary. Ezekiel's temple and probably Solomon's temple as well, also had inner courts. It's of those courts that the Psalmist sang: better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:10).
The root חצר (hsr II) occurs in cognate languages with meanings such as to be present, settle or dwell. In the Bible, only the derived masculine noun חצר (haser) occurs. It means settled abode (Nehemiah 11:25), settlement (Genesis 25:16) or village without a wall (Leviticus 25:31).
Note that this word is identical to the previous noun, meaning that in Hebrew courts and villages were known by the exact same word. Then take in account that the temple represented the human collective it was central to, and these two words blend into a harmonious one.
The root חצר (hsr III) occurs in cognate language as to be green. Still, in Hebrew it might have less to do with being green and much more with the frailty of the individual versus the strength of the collective. This root's sole surviving derivative is the masculine noun חציר (hasir), meaning grass. This word is used to denote food for animals (1 Kings 18:5, Isaiah 15:6) but more often in metaphors that describe how short and perishable a human individual life is (Job 8:12, Isaiah 37:27).
The metaphor immediately also argues that although one tent makes no village, and one blade of grass makes no lush carpet, the village and the lush carpet called humanity is quite perennial.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament counts an extra root חצר (hsr) where BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't. HAW says that the noun חציר (hasir), meaning leek (Numbers 11:5 only), comes from a root חצר (hsr IV) that means to be narrow. Note that this noun is identical to the previous one, and also note that the trumpet-like form of a leek is precisely like a centralized city, but in three dimensions instead of two.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament suggests that the final root חצר (hsr V) may also mean to be narrow (like the previous one). Its derivatives are:
- The feminine noun חצצרה (hasosra), meaning trumpet (2 Kings 12:14, Hosea 5:8, Numbers 10:5).
- The denominative verb חצצר (hssr), meaning to sound the trumpet (2 Chronicles 5:13).