🔼The name Birzaith: Summary
- Olive Well, Selection Of Olives
- Aperture, Female
- From (1) the verb ברר (barar), to clean or be pure, and (2) the noun זית (zayit), olive.
- From the verb ברז (baraz), to pierce.
🔼The name Birzaith in the Bible
The name Birzaith, or Birzavith, as older translations have it, occurs only once in the Bible, but it's not clear whether this pertains to a person or a town, as the word אב ('ab), father, may also denote a founder or tribal head. Birzaith is mentioned in the genealogy of Asher, whose son Beriah had a son Malchiel, who was the "father" of Birzaith (1 Chronicles 7:31).
🔼Etymology of the name Birzaith
According to most commentators, our name consists of two elements. The first part comes from the verb ברר (barar), meaning to clean or purify:
The verb ברר (barar) essentially means to clean, purify or clarify. Usually, whatever needs to be purified is first pulverized and then sorted: the useful elements are gathered and stored, and the fluff, chaff, dust and other garbage is either blown away by wind, washed away by water, burned with fire or simply scooped up and physically dumped somewhere. In the case of metal ore, the material is heated so that the good stuff flows out and separates by its nature from the bad stuff and its nature.
Derived adjective בר (bar) means pure or clean and identical noun בר (bar) denotes a kernel of grain or corn. Noun בר (bor) denotes a kind of material that was used in the metal purification process, and identical masculine noun בר (bor) means cleanness or pureness. Feminine noun ברית (borit) denotes a kind of soap (and is spelled identical to the word meaning covenant; see below). Noun בר (bar) describes a field (perhaps a freshly plowed, cleaned and ready-to-sow one?), and the masculine plural noun ברברים (barburim) denotes a kind of bird known literally and for unknown reasons as "cleany-cleanies".
Verb באר (ba'ar) describes writing on tablets of stone. Nouns באר (be'er), באר (bo'r) and בור (bor) mean well or pit, and obviously not merely refer to physical cisterns but rather to centers of learning and information technology (because yes, writing is information technology and then as hip as blockchain is now).
Verb ברא (bara' I) denotes the creative activity of God, which (as we know from modern cosmology) predominantly has to do with giving elements the freedom to sort themselves into constructions that are deemed stable by the laws that govern creation (and which ultimately describe freedom). Noun בריאה (beri'a) denotes a creation, "an entirely new thing".
Verb ברא (bara' II) means to be fat, and since fat is essentially an organic storage of energy, this verb is in modern terms neatly explained by relativity theory. Since anything unstable falls apart when exposed to energy, only stable compounds can gain mass. Likewise, a fat guy is clearly at peace and well provisioned (and not on the run or forced to labor half starving). Adjective בריא (bari') means fat and consequently healthy and prosperous. Verb ברה (bara) means to eat. Nouns בריה (birya) and ברות (barut) mean food.
Noun ברית (berit) means covenant and occurs all over the Bible. Although it's not wholly clear how it technically relates to the above, the gist of it is clear. A covenant clears up a working relation between parties and leads to peace, prosperity and ultimately more clarity and cleanness between said parties. Note that it is spelled the same as the word for soap (see above, and see our article on Soap in the Old World).
The second part of our name comes from the noun זית (zayit), olive:
It's not clear whether the verb זהה (zaha) or זתת (zatat) ever existed but if it did it probably meant to emerge fresh or bloom (it does so in cognate languages). Note that a flower contains a plant's reproductive organs and by displaying its flowers a plant indicates its willingness and readiness to reproduce. In our modern times flowers have managed to attain a kind of romantic innocence but their native function and original symbolism is that of sexual union (which is why dudes bring flowers), or rather more general: the willingness and ability of being fruitful.
Besides some names, its sole surviving derivative is the noun זית (zayit), olive or olive tree. The blossoming of the olive tree was a sign that the winter was over and spring (ziv) had arrived. The oil from the olive was used in lamps and in medical procedures and became known as a light bringer and a healer. Kings, prophets and priests were anointed into their offices with olive oil, and in proper societies these offices are not political but based on demonstrable levels of practical, fruit bearing wisdom.
But then there are others who surmise that our name instead derives from the verb ברז (baraz), meaning to pierce:
The verb ברז (baraz) means to pierce, and it may have helped form the noun ברזל (barzel), meaning iron.
The noun ברזל (barzel) means iron but it's unclear where it came from and what it originally meant. To ancient Hebrew scribes it may have reminded of the compound ברזי־לי (b'razi-lay), meaning something like "in [this is] my wasting", or perhaps a combination of בר (bar), clean or pure, and זלל (zalal), to make light of.
For a meaning of the name Birzaith, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Olive Well. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has the comparable Selection Of Olives.
BDB Theological Dictionary, on the other hand, lists our name under the verb ברז (baraz), to pierce, and suggests it may mean Aperture (or foramen, actually) and deems Birzaith a female.
That the name Birzaith has something to do with being a female isn't unthinkable since the regular word for female, namely נקבה (neqeba), derives from the verb נקב (naqab), which also means to pierce or bore. However, in the Bible many men have names that are feminine words, and women have names that are masculine words, because unlike our own naming convention, Hebrew names didn't necessarily describe a quality of the bearer of the name but often commemorated some major historic event or attribute of the deity. And women aren't usually listed in Biblical genealogies, and if they are, commonly only in relation to some famous son or husband. Said otherwise, Birzaith may very well have been a man named Female, in honor of some goddess.