🔼The name Mara: Summary
- From the verb מרר (marar), to be bitter or strong.
🔼The name Mara in the Bible
The name Mara occurs only once in the Bible. It's the name that Naomi gives herself after returning to Bethlehem from Moab, where her husband Elkanah and two sons Mahlon and Chilion have died (Ruth 1:20). Chilion's widow Orpah stayed behind but Mahlon's widow comes with Naomi. In Bethlehem she meets and marries Boaz, and they become the parents of Obed, the grandparents of Jesse, the father of king David.
🔼Etymology of the name Mara
Naomi says, "Call me Mara because Shaddai has dealt bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20), and the word for bitter comes from the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter:
The verb מרר (marar) means to be strong or bitter and can be used to describe tastes and smells, and hard or difficult situations.
Adjectives מר (mar) and מרירי (meriri) mean bitter. Nouns מרור (maror) and מרורה (merora) refer to any bitter thing, the former specifically to a certain bitter herb, and the latter to gall or poison.
Noun מררה (merera) also means gal. Nouns מרה (morra), מרה (mora), מרירות (merirut), ממר (memer), ממרור (mamror) and תמרור (tamrur) mean bitterness. The latter noun is spelled identical to the noun תמרור (tamrur), meaning marker or sign post, from the root תמר (tamar), meaning to be stiff or erect.
And speaking of such, the nouns מר (mor) and מור (mor) mean myrrh, a bitter and fragrant spice that was originally used to mark the tabernacle, but which came to be used to proclaim, olfactorily, the consummation of marriage. Hence, despite its links to words that mostly describe hardship, myrrh oil was known as the "oil of joy."
Verb מרה (mara) means to be contentious or rebellious, particularly against God. Noun מרי (meri) means rebellion.
The verb מור (mor) means to change. Perhaps the connection between the previous is coincidental but perhaps these words are indeed linked, as change is often reaction to bitterness or opposition. The noun תמורה (temura) means exchange.
When Naomi calls herself Mara, she is not simply complaining that she's been dealt a lousy hand; she's saying that the grief that Shaddai has visited upon her has made her strong.
For a meaning of the name Mara, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Bitterness. NOBSE Study Bible Name List has Bitter.