🔼The name Hazor-hadattah: Summary
- Town Of The Riddle
- New Town
- From (1) the noun חצר (haser), village, and (2) the verb חוד (hud), to pose a riddle.
- From (1) the noun חצר (haser), village, and (2) the adjective חדת (hadat), new.
🔼The name Hazor-hadattah in the Bible
The name Hazor-hadattah occurs only once in the Bible. It's mentioned as one of the cities near the southern border of the territory assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25).
🔼Etymology of the name Hazor-hadattah
The name Hazor-hadattah consists of two elements. The first part is the same as the noun חצר (haser), meaning village:
The verb חצר (hasar) relates to the first visual manifestations of a gathering or emergence of some sort: to begin to cluster or gather or emerge.
The noun חציר (hasir) means grass, which is the first plant to sprout after, say, a fire. Noun חציר (hasir) means leek (a bigger version of grass) and חצצרה (hasosra) means trumpet, i.e. the perhaps leek-like instrument with which a gathering of humans is instigated.
The noun חצר (haser) denotes a hamlet or settlement or loose, rudimentary federation; the initial beginning of what some day might become a village or even a city. Noun חצר (haser) refers to an enclosure in the architectural sense, or even a court in the sense of it being a place where people loosely gather.
The origin of the second part of our name is disputed. Pretty much everybody derives it from the Aramaic adjective חדת (hadat), which means new. This adjective is used only once in the Bible, in Ezra 6:4, where it modifies the word for timber (new timber).
Here at Abarim Publications we doubt that this derivation is correct. The narrative in the Book of Joshua contains no Aramaic, and there's no reason to expect that an otherwise unmentioned hamlet in the south of Judah had an Aramaic name at the time right after the invasion of Canaan. And even if we allow for late authorship, this Aramaic adjective has a perfectly suitable cognate in Hebrew, namely the adjective חדש (hadash; see the name Hodesh).
The form חדת — and in some manuscripts חדתה, like our name — occurs one more time in the Bible, namely in Judges 14:16, where Samson's new wife complains, "You have riddled the riddle to the sons of my people and you have not explained it to me". We expect that the second part of our name comes from the verb חוד (hud), meaning to pose a riddle:
The verb חדד (hadad) means to be sharp or keen or even swift. Adjective חד (had) means sharp (mostly of swords) and adjective חדוד (haddud) means sharpened or pointed.
The verb חדה (hada) is similar to the previous, but appears to lean more toward keenness, swiftness or even gladness and resonance. In some cases it plainly means to rejoice. Noun חדוה (hedwa) means joy or gladness.
The ideas of sharpness and joyfulness meet in the noun חידה (hida), which means riddle; a verbal exercise meant to sharpen the mind and give joy in the process. Posing riddles was an important element of life in societies that were wisdom-based, which explains the many Biblical scenes that revolve around riddles. The denominative verb חוד (hud) means to pose a riddle.
Note the emphasis on collectivity in these words, as well as the principle of preservation of momentum that underlies both the mechanical process of resonance and social phenomena such as humor, fashion and even language itself.
For a meaning of the name Hazor-hadattah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads New Hazor, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has New Castle, and BDB Theological Dictionary pusillanimously proposes "perhaps" New Hasor.
Our translation would be Town Of The Riddle, which either suggests the place was known for its lively entertainment, or else it was a center of learning, of which there were many in those days.