🔼The name Ituraea: Summary
- Land Of The Encampments
- From the verb טור (twr), to border.
🔼The name Ituraea in the Bible
The name Ituraea occurs only once in the Bible. The Lucan evangelist pin-points the ministry of John the Baptist, and particularly the baptism of Jesus, to the time when Tiberius was the Roman Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor in Judea, Lysanias was tetrarch in Abilene, Herod (Antipas) in Galilee and his brother Philip in Ituraea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1).
The area called Ituraea stretched from Galilee north into Aram and was named after an ethnic group called the Ituraeans. Where the Ituraeans came from is a matter of dispute, but most scholars assume they were indigenous to the region, which would make them Arabic, Aramaic or Phoenician, but they might as well have been Indo-European. We don't know.
🔼Etymology of the name Ituraea
The origin of the name Ituraeans is equally obscure. It has been suggested (and subsequently copied galore) that our name may have had something to do with the name Jetur, which belonged to one of the sons of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15), and which has to do with circular rows:
The unused verb טור (twr) probably meant to hover about, limit or border (it does so in cognates). Noun טור (tur) describes an enclosing row of stones, beams or ornaments. Noun טירה (tira) means encampment.
Whether Jetur and our name Ituraea are indeed related is neither suggested nor disputed by the Biblical authors. Modern scholars point at different spellings of the Greek and Latin transliteration of Jetur and Ituraea, and note that the Hagrite town called Jetur mentioned in 1 Chronicles 5:19 was not situated in the more northern Ituraea, but these observations do little to settle the issue or direct it in any particular direction.
It's unclear what the name Ituraea might have meant, but if it is Semitic (which it probably is), the chance is excellent that it means something like Land Of The Encampments