Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The two forms תור (twr) and תאר (t'r) appear to describe similar actions and some scholars declare an etymological kinship between the two:
The verb תור (tur) means to seek out or select (Numbers 10:33, Ecclesiastes 2:3), to spy out or explore (Numbers 13:2, Job 39:8), and to go about (Numbers 15:39, 1 Kings 10:15). This verb is associated with a broad circular or sweeping motion. Its derivatives are:
- The masculine noun תור (tor) or תר (tor), meaning plait or circlet. It occurs four times; each time difficult to translate: Song of Solomon 1:10, Esther 2:12, 2 Samuel 7:19, and 1 Chronicles 17:17.
- The masculine noun יתור (yetur), seems to mean a searching or range, although it is not certain that it truly belongs to this root. The parallelism in the text seems to suggest that it should have to do with searching, but it may also have to do with the verb יתר (yatar), meaning to remain. Our noun occurs only in Job 39:8.
- The feminine noun תר (tor) or תור (tor), meaning dove or rather turtledove (Genesis 15:9, Numbers 6:10, Jeremiah 8:7). Again, it is not sure at all if this noun should be associated with our verb, as doves aren't exactly known for their scouting powers. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament deems the derivation uncertain, and BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't even list our noun under the root תור (tur), but gives it its own roost after the תק (tq)-words. But then again, the groom of the Song of Solomon compares his bride's eyes to doves. He uses the word יונה (yona), which is the regular word for dove, but still, human eyes don't look like doves, but perhaps they act like doves: literally always searching for a place to land.
Perhaps the core meaning of this root is not so much a scouting or exploring, but rather that upon which the eye falls, or what attracts the eye; beautiful things. Hence the women's apparel and the white dove, but see our article on the Greek word for dove, namely περιστερα (peristera) for more on this.
Also notice the similarity with the word תורה (torah), which is the word Torah, meaning Law.
The verb תאר (ta'ar) appears to be concerned with the outline or contours of something. It's mostly employed in the paragraphs that discuss the borders of the tribe's territories (Joshua 15-18) but in Isaiah 44:13 it's used to describe an artist outlining the form of the idol he means to make. A special form of this verb may occur in Joshua 19:13, but see our article on the name Rimmon-methoar for a closer look at this. Our verb comes with the following derivatives:
- The masculine noun תאר (to'ar), meaning shape or form; something to be gazed at. It's used to describe the form of a woman (Genesis 29:17, Deuteronomy 21:11, Esther 2:7) or of a man (Genesis 39:6, 1 Kings 1:6, 1 Samuel 28:14) or of cattle (Genesis 41:18). The prophet Isaiah uses this word twice to talk about the unattractive form of the Messiah (Isaiah 52:14 and 53:2).
- The denominative verb תאר (ta'ar), meaning to draw an outline. This may be the verb used in Isaiah 44:13 (insofar the ancient authors saw these verbs as two and not one, as the much later Masoretes suggested) and it occurs in Numbers 34:7-8.