🔼The name Kir-heres: Summary
- Wall Of (Broken) Earthenware
- From (1) the noun קיר (qir), wall, and (2) the noun חרשׂ (heres), earthenware.
🔼The name Kir-heres in the Bible
The names Kir-heres (קיר־חרש) and Kir-hareseth (קיר חרשת and קיר־חרשת) are applied to the same Moabite town, which also may be known simply as Kir. Through the prophet Jeremiah, YHWH exclaims: "For all Moab I shall cry out; I will moan for the men of Kir-heres" (Jeremiah 48:31) and "My heart wails for Moab like flutes; my heart also wails like flutes for the men of Kir-heres" (Jeremiah 48:36).
The prophet Isaiah reports a similar message from the Lord, again with a musical motif: "My heart intones like a harp for Moab; and my inward feelings for Kir-heres" (Isaiah 16:11). A few verses prior to that, the Lord foretells that "everyone of Moab shall wail, and "you" shall moan for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth" (Isaiah 16:7). It's generally agreed that Kir-hareseth and Kir-heres are the same place, but the significance of the raisin cakes is obscure (perhaps a kind of ritualistic offering, see Hosea 3:1).
The only reference to Kir-hareseth in the historical narrative occurs in 2 Kings 3:25. King Mesha of Moab rebelled against king Jehoram king of Israel, and reneged on the tax he agreed on with Jehoram's father Ahab (2 Kings 3:5). Jehoram entered into an alliance with king Jehoshaphat of Judah and, after an interlude relating to the prophet Elisha and a minstrel, bore down on the Moabite army. The Moabites were defeated and the Israelites destroyed the land of Moab by dumping stones in its wells. Only Kir-hareseth was spared by the stone dumpers, but it was visited by a contingent of "slingers," which was probably also not good. King Mesha realized that both the battle and his country was lost and sacrificed his crown prince as a burnt offering (probably) to his deity. This resulted in fierce indignation of the remaining Moabites, who proceeded to drive the Israelites back to their own country (2 Kings 3:27).
🔼Etymology of the name Kir-heres
The name Kir-heres obviously consists of two elements. The first part of our name is the same as the name Kir and Kir is identical to the noun קיר (qir), meaning wall:
Root קרר (qarar) means to cool off in a thermodynamic sense: to go from hot gas to cool liquid to a cold solid. Socially this would describe warring tribes "cooling off" into culturally compatible peoples and liquid trading networks and ultimately the formation of cities and solid nations. Intellectually, diverse viewpoints might congeal into local conventions and ultimately a global standard.
Adjective קר (qar) means cool. Nouns קר (qor) and קרה (qara) mean cold. Noun מקרה (meqera), meaning coolness.
Noun קיר (qir) is one of a few words for wall. It might relate to the root because bricks are congealed mud, and a wall is bricks pieced together (non-standard bricks take some puzzling and pounding). The noun קרקע (qarqa') means floor; earth trampled into a compact state. The verb קרקר (qarqar) means to forcibly compact, to pound down.
Verb קרה (qara), and its by-form קרא (qara'), mean to near, to meet or to happen upon. Noun קורה (qora) describes a rafter or beam; the things that come together to form a roof, and which obviously relate to bricks pieced into a wall. Verb קרה (qara) means to piece beams together and noun מקרה (meqareh) means literally place of beams; beam-work.
Nouns קרה (qareh) and מקרה (miqreh) mean chance or accident, fortune or fate. Noun קרי (qeri) means opposition, contrariness. At a social level, chance meetings and opposition are the very rafters that carry society's roof.
For this same reason, the nouns קריה (qiryah) and קרת (qeret) are the words for city and federation of cities.
Verb קרא (qara'), which is identical to the by-form of the previous, means to call or call near. Adjective קריא (qari') means called or summoned. Noun קריאה (qeri'a) means proclamation. And noun מקרא (miqra') means convocation or called assembly. The noun קרא (qore') describes a partridge; literally "a caller."
The second part could come from any of the roots חרש but is probably the same as the noun חרשׂ (heres), meaning earthenware, or (in the case of Kir-hareseth) an alternate version of the plural noun חרסות or חרסית (harsit), meaning potsherds:
Verb חרש (harash I) means to engrave or cut into something, often with the objective of storing information. Noun חרשׁ (harash) means engraver or cutter (of a wide range of materials). Noun חרשׁת (haroshet) means a carving. Noun חרישׁ (harish) means a plowing or plowing time, and nouns מחרשׁה (maharesha) and מחרשׁת (mahareshet) mean ploughshare (and remember the strong Biblical connection between spreading seeds and spreading words).
Perhaps a whole other verb (and perhaps the same one) is חרש (harash II), to be silent or to be deaf. How these two verbs relate isn't clear but perhaps information technology was reckoned as "speech yet silent" and "hearing yet deaf", or else the intersection might lay on the esoteric nature of information technology. Then as today, people who are highly skilled in it may seem like magicians to the rest of us. Adjective חרשׁ (heresh) means deaf and adverb חרשׁ (heresh) means silently or secretly.
Noun חרש (horesh) appears to refer to wooded heights. How that word fits in isn't clear (most scholars assume a 3rd verb: harash III) but it may connect to the rest via the noun חרש (heresh), magic. This rare noun is proposed to come from yet another identical verb, harash IV, but here at Abarim Publications we find this noun to match the previous stock neatly. Particularly when a craft is new and it's not clear what a new technology is supposed to do, scammers of all sorts arise.
Verb חרש (haras) was originally spelled identical to the previous (the difference between שׂ and שׁ originated in the Middle Ages). It means to scratch or lacerate, but instead of storing good information this root emphasizes deletion of bad information (a similar duality exists in the verb זרע, zara', to scatter to sow, and זרה, zara, to scatter to winnow).
Noun חרשׂ (heres) means earthenware or rather a fragment of earthenware. Noun חרס (heres) denotes an eruptive disease characterized by itchy skin irritation (note the alternation between the letters שׂ, sin, and ס, samekh). The feminine plural noun חרסות (harsit) or חרסית (harsit) mean potsherds.
Noun חרס (heres) is an unusual word for the sun and although scholars see no connection with the previous, here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the ancients saw a connection between baked clay and a tanned skin, both protective and both provoked by exposure to a source of heat.
The name Kir-heres literally means Wall Of (Broken) Earthenware.
However, both Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and BDB Theological Dictionary believe that the first part of our name derives from the noun קריה (qiryah), meaning city. Jones indeed derives the second part from the noun חרשׂ (heres), meaning earthenware but reads a rather imprecise City Of Brick or City Of Dried Earth.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't offer an interpretation of the second part of the name Kir-heres. BDB prints our name under the root חרשׂ (haras) but seems to deliberately omit the symbol that indicates derivation. NOBSE Study Bible Name List omits the name Kir-heres all together.