🔼The name Hor-haggidgad: Summary
- Cavern Of Felicity, The Central Light Of Little Fortunes
- From (1) the root חרר (harar), to be a central hub of heat, and (2) the verb גדד (gadad), to cut or invade.
🔼The name Hor-haggidgad in the Bible
The name Hor-haggidgad occurs in only one scene in the Bible. Numbers 33:32-33 lists Hor-haggidgad as one of the stadia of Israel in the wilderness, in between Bene-jaakan and Jotbathah. Deuteronomy 10:6-7 tells of the same journey, albeit with a bit more detail, and Hor-haggidgad is called Gudgodah (גדגדה).
🔼Etymology of the name Hor-haggidgad
The name Hor-haggidgad consists of three elements. The first part comes from the root group חרר:
The root חרר (harar) describes a society's central and enclosed source of heat. It thus may express a geographical depression, but more so a being hot and ultimately a being a ruler (whether by might, political clout or wisdom).
Verb חרר (harar I) means to be hot, burned or charred. Noun חרר (harer) denotes a parched place and noun חרחר (harhur) describes a violent heat or fever. The unused verb חרר (harar II) means to be free in cognate languages, which is the opposite of being a slave. Noun חר (hor) means noble or nobleman. The unused verb חרר (harar III) appears to refer to the enclosure of kilns and ovens, as the first ones were most likely built in natural hollows. The nouns חר (hor) and חור (hor) mean hole or cavern, but obviously relate to the previous word in that freemen surround themselves with walls and armies.
Verb חרה (hara) means to burn or ignite (in the Bible solely in an emotional way: to get angry). Noun חרון (haron) describes the burning of anger. Noun חרי (hori) refers to a general burning.
Verb חור (hawar) means to be or grow white (like ash or baked bricks). Nouns חור (hur) and חורי (huray) refer to any white stuff, including garments and linen, and noun חרי (hori) describes white bread or cake.
Verb נחר (nahar) looks very much like a passive or reflexive version of חרר (harar) or its participle. This verb isn't used in the Bible but nouns נחר (nahar) and נחרה (naharah) describe the vigorous snorting of a horse, and noun נחיר (nahir) means nostril (which in turn reminds of a cavern).
The first letter of the last part of our name is ה (he), which is either the definite article (meaning the) or it indicates a motion towards whatever follows.
The final part of our name is the mysterious word גדגד, which is mysterious because we don't know what it means (or even where it came from; "mng. dub." growls BDB Theological Dictionary). Even the authors of the Septuagint didn't know what to do with it, and transliterated this whole name as Mount Of Gadgad, which leads some to suspect that these noble scholars mistook the word חר for הר (har), meaning mountain. The noun חר (hor), with which our name starts never means mountain and should in this context probably be translated with cave or cavern.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a corrected Cavern Of Gidgad but doesn't explain who or what Gidgad might be. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) initially copies the Septuagint, but also refers to Gesenius' find of an Ethiopic word guadguada, meaning to beat or to thunder. Hence, says Jones, some onomastics read Cavern Of Thunder.
A Hebrew audience however (and especially those who didn't speak Ethiopic) would probably have figured that the word גדגד and its feminine equivalent גדגדה (hence the name Gudgodah) comes from a diminishing repetition of the word גד (gad), from the verb גדד (gadad), meaning to cut or invade:
The verb גדד (gadad) describes making an invasive cut, mostly in order to expose something valuable. Noun גדוד (gedud) may describe an invasive band of raiders, or more general: a cutting, a furrow. Noun גדודה (geduda) means a furrow or cutting. Noun גד (gad) appears to describe the exposed treasure and may be used to describe a physical fortune, plain luck or a state of felicity.
Verb גדה (gada) also means to cut. Noun גדה (gadda) refers to a river bank. Noun גדי (gedi) describes a young animal, but mostly one that was either just slaughtered or soon will be.
Perhaps the name Hor-haggidgad originally meant Cavern Of Thunder in words that once existed in Hebrew but never made it into the narrative of the Bible, and are extant only in Ethiopian scriptures. Perhaps it meant Cavern Of Gidgad and Gidgad was the name of some local deity whose name was imported from some far away land (or, say, of an Ethiopian expat who made that cave his home). But a Hebrew audience would probably have figured this name to mean Cave Of Scrapes (if it was particularly rugged within) or Cavern Of Felicity (if finding this place somehow rendered the Israelites a sense of fortuity, say because it rained).