🔼The name Kiriath-sannah: Summary
- Encounter At The Thorn-Bush, Storage City
- From (1) the verb קרה (qara), to meet, or its noun קריה (qiryah), city, and (2) the noun סנה (seneh), thorn bush.
🔼The name Kiriath-sannah in the Bible
The name Kiriath-sannah is a curious case. It occurs only once, in Joshua 15:49, where it is equated with the city Debir. Debir is also mentioned in Joshua 15:15, where we learn that it was formerly known as Kiriath-sepher.
The name Debir literally means "Word" and Kiriath-sepher means "City Of Writing," so it's a good bet to assume that Debir was a hotspot for scribal activity or academic learning (these hotspots were apparently common; at Jabez lived three whole families of scribes — 1 Chronicles 2:55). But the unexplained mystery is why Debir is also called Kiriath-sannah and what that might mean.
The Septuagint deals with the mystery by denying its existence and reads Πολις γραμματων (Polis Grammaton; City Of Writing) for both Kiriath-sannah and Kiriath-sepher. The Vulgate goes back to the original text and reads Cariathsenna. Nowadays translations duly read Kiriath-sannah, but pretty much every commentary declares it wrong. The reasons why are rarely submitted.
🔼Etymology of the name Kiriath-sannah
The name Kiriath-sannah 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 bit trickier to identify. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) believes it is related to an Arabic verb that means to learn, or a derived noun that means law.
Our name may also have to do with the cluster of mysterious names that contains Sinai. Our name is even spelled the same as the name Seneh, and the difference lies only in the Masoretic symbols that were added to the Hebrew text more than a thousand years after it was produced. The name Seneh probably comes from the noun סנה (seneh), which denotes a kind of thorn-bush:
Verb אסם ('asam) means to gather or store. Noun אסם ('asam) means storehouse. A close cognate equivalent of the latter is אסנא ('asna'), which also means thorn bush (see next).
Possibly related to the previous, the noun סנה (seneh) describes a kind of thorn bush, particularly the one which famously burned.
Much of the Biblical narrative is devoted to the history of information technology, from the rise of nominal reason to the invention of script and the alphabet, and ultimately to the development of the literary tradition within which the Word of God could be received in human form.
The name Kiriath-sannah may have meant Encounter At The Thorn-Bush, which may have been some kind of code for divine revelation or encounter. Or perhaps the association between the noun meaning thorn bush and the verb to store allowed for a meaning of Storage City.
For a meaning of the name Kiriath-sannah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads City Of Destruction for inexplicable reasons.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with the Arabic root and proposes City Of Learning.
BDB Theological Dictionary assumes this name is the result of a text error and offers no further interpretation.