🔼The name Jair
There are two different names in the Hebrew Bible that transliterated to English both become the name Jair. We'll call them Jair I (יאיר) and Jair II (יעיר):
🔼The name Jair I: Summary
- He Enlightens, He Will Diffuse Light
- From the verb אור ('or), to be or give light; to shine.
🔼The name Jair I in the Bible
This version of the name Jair is assigned to four different men in the Bible:
- The first Jair we meet is a descendant of Manasseh, who conquered several towns east of the Jordan and named them after himself (Numbers 32:41). In 2 Samuel 20:26 we meet a priest named Ira the Jairite (יאירי), who was either a non-Levitical priest and descendant of Jair or he was a Levite living in the area named after Jair.
- The second Jair (which is missed by every source we consulted) is a son of Segub, son of Hezron and the daughter of Machir of Gilead. Hezron is a son of Perez, son of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:22). The sources possibly confuse this Jair with the first one because this Jair too is a town owner, and most likely of the same towns as the previous Jair.
- Jair number three is the eighth judge of Israel, who came from Gilead, and whose thirty sons ruled the thirty cities of Jair (Judges 10:3).
- Jair number four is a son of Shimei and the father of Mordecai, the great-uncle of Esther or Hadassah (Esther 2:5).
🔼Etymology of the name Jair I
This version of the name Jair comes from the common Hebrew verb אור ('or), meaning to shine:
The verb אור ('or) means to be light or to give light; to shine. This verb's primary derivative is the expectable noun אור ('or), meaning light. The 'metaphor' that relates light to wisdom may not be a metaphor, or at least not to the ancients. In our article on the verb נהר (nahar), meaning both to flow and to shine, we show that the ancients had a surprisingly solid grasp of Relativity Theory.
🔼Jair I meaning
For a meaning of this name Jair, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads He Will Enlighten or He Will Diffuse Light. BDB Theological Dictionary suggests He Enlightens or One Giving Light. NOBSE Study Bible Name List acknowledges no difference between the two versions and reads He Enlightens for both.
🔼The name Jair II: Summary
- He Will Embroider, He Will Harvest Trees
- He's Aroused, He's Nude, He's Blind
- City Slicker, Acts Like A Wild Ass
- From the noun יער (ya'ar), either forest or honeycomb.
- From the verb עור ('ur), to rouse oneself, to be nude or to be blind.
- From the noun עיר ('ur), city or wild ass.
🔼The name Jair II in the Bible
The version of the name Jair spelled with the letter ayin instead of the aleph (יעיר) occurs only once in the Bible. According to 1 Chronicles 20:5 Jair is the father of Elhanan, the slayer of Lahmi, the brother of Goliath of Gath. But in the parallel text of 2 Samuel 21:19, the father of Elhanan is called יערי ארגים (Jaare-oregim), and Elhanan kills the son of Goliath, who is apparently named after his father.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Jair II
This name Jair seems to be presented as a truncated version of the name Jaare-oregim, the first part of which comes from the root group יער (y'r):
The verb יער (ya'ar) isn't used in the Bible and it's a complete mystery what it might have meant. Noun יער (ya'ar) is the common word for forest or thicket, and the identical noun יער (ya'ar) means honeycomb. It is, of course, perfectly possibly that these two nouns are not two but one, describing something general like a thing that consists of many elements, which contain energetic nutrients (either fruits or honey), and which are patrolled by ferocious animals. The latter noun also occurs as the variant יערה (ya'ra), honeycomb.
Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) translates the second part of the name Jaare-oregim with Weavers, and looking for a fitting translation for the first part, figures that the core meaning of the combined root יער may have something to do with the many-colored crowns of trees in a forest: a tapestry. For Jair (יעיר), which he figures is the expanded version of Jaare (יער), he proposes a rather curious He Will Embroider.
BDB Theological Dictionary, on the other hand, thinks that the first part of the name Jaare-oregim is a scribal error for Jair, and relates the name Jair to the verb עור ('ur I), meaning to awake or rouse oneself:
The root ערר ('arar) describes an accumulation in one place that results in an emptiness or barrenness everywhere else — both cities and clouds form from this principle, and indeed any sort of commercial or intellectual fortune. Adjectives ערירי ('ariri) and ערער ('ar'ar) mean stripped, childless or destitute. Noun מערה (me'ara) literally means "place of being stripped" and is the Bible's common word for cave. Noun ערוער ('aro'er) denotes some kind of tree or bush (probably one without leaves).
Noun עיר ('ir) is the Bible's common word for city, which constitutes an accumulation of people and goods, usually in the middle of a wide area without remaining trees. Noun עיר ('ayir) came to specifically denote the wild ass, but apparently stems from the more common behavior of standing around in clusters in the middle of a field that's been grazed clean (in other languages this word also denotes gazelles and such).
Verb עור ('awar) means to be or make blind, and blindness occurs most commonly due to a cataract (which looks like a skin forming over the eye, and is due to a cloudy accumulation of protein in the ocular lens). Adjective עור ('iwwer) means blind. Nouns עורון ('iwwaron) and עורת ('awweret) mean blindness.
Verb עור ('ur I) means to rouse oneself — literally to collect and bundle one's feelings. Noun עיר ('ir) means excitement.
Identical verb עור ('ur II) means to be exposed or laid bare. Noun מעור (ma'or) means nakedness and noun מערם (ma'arom) means naked one. Adjectives עירם ('erom), ערם ('erom), ערום ('arom) and ערם ('arom) mean naked. Noun עור ('or) means skin or hide.
Verb ערה ('ara) also means to be naked or bare. Nouns ערה ('ara), מערה (ma'ara) and מער (ma'ar) refer to bare or exposed places. Nouns ערוה ('erwa) and עריה ('erya) mean nakedness or exposure. Noun תער (ta'ar) denotes a thing that makes bare: a razor or sheath of a sword.
This would extend our name the meaning of He's Blind, which brings it in curious parallel with the name Homer.
BDB doesn't translate the name Jair, but following this reasoning, it would be an active form of the verb עור, and mean something like He Arouses or Terrorist.
However, taking the name Jair from the form עיר ('ir) gives it the simultaneous meaning of City Slicker, Acts Like A Wild Ass and Nudist.