🔼The name Kiriath-jearim: Summary
- City Of Forests, City Of Honeycombs
- From (1) the noun קריה (qiryah), city, and (2) the noun יער (ya'ar), forest or honeycomb.
🔼The name Kiriath-jearim in the Bible
We hear first of Kiriath-jearim when the indigenous Canaanite tribe of the Gibeonites trick Joshua into saving them by making him believe that they came from a distant land (Joshua 9:15). When Joshua figures out that he's been duped, the Gibeonite towns of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim are annexed (Joshua 9:17) and the Gibeonites made slaves (Joshua 9:27).
When Judah claims its land, Kiriath-jearim became known as Baalah (Joshua 15:9, 1 Chronicles 13:6) and Kiriath-baal (Joshua 15:60, 18:14). It was obviously situated at the north or north-western border of Judah because it also served as a marker for the territory of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:14).
In the time of the judges, a band of six-hundred Danites came from the north looking for better lands and camped near Kiriath-jearim on their way to sack Laish, and called it Mahaneh-dan, but that name doesn't seem to have stuck (Judges 18:12). Much later, when the Philistines delivered the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, it ended up in the house of Abinadab of Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 7:1).
By the time the Chronicler was writing, Shobal the son of Hur son of Ephrathah and Caleb son of Hezron of Judah was considered the "father" of Kiriath-jearim, which probably means that his descendants formed its main rulers and citizens (1 Chronicles 2:50). These descendants are listed in 2:53, namely the Ithrites, Puthites, Shumathites, Mishraites, Zorathites and Eshtaolites.
In the days of Jeremiah there was a prophet named Uriah, son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim, who proclaimed much the same messages as Jeremiah did. King Jehoiakim had him arrested and executed (Jeremiah 26:20).
Nehemiah's list of returnees from the exile in Babylon also contains the name Kiriath-jearim (Nehemiah 7:29), but Ezra calls this place Kiriath-arim (Ezra 2:25). See our article on that name for a discussion on this discrepancy.
Our name Kiriath-jearim is spelled with a maqqep only in 1 Samuel 6:21 (קרית־יערים), and in Jeremiah 26:20 the jearim-part is prefixed with the particle of motion: קרית היערים.
🔼Etymology of the name Kiriath-jearim
The name Kiriath-jearim obviously consists of two elements. The first part is the same as the name Kiriath, which is identical to an older variant of the Biblical noun קריה (qiryah), meaning city. It derives of the verb קרה (qara), meaning to meet or get together:
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 of our name is a regular plural form of the noun יער (ya'ar), meaning forest, from the unused root יער:
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.
For a meaning of the name Kiriath-jearim, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary read City Of Forests. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes City Of Woods, and adds: "i.e. full of woods or trees".