🔼The name Merari: Summary
- Bitterness, Bitter
- From the verb מרר (marar), to be bitter or strong.
🔼The name Merari in the Bible
Merari is a son of Levi and brother of Kohath and Gershon (Genesis 46:11). His family is called the מררי, the Merarites, which is spelled the same as the name Merari (Numbers 26:57). The duties of the Merarites were to take care of the framework of the tabernacle: pillars and sockets of the tent as well as the surrounding court (Numbers 3:36-37).
🔼Etymology of the name Merari
The name Merari, like other Levites names, is probably of Egyptian origin and may have originally meant Beloved. In Hebrew, however, it looks like it has to do with the verb מרר (marar) meaning be bitter, strengthen, strong:
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.
The letter yod on which our name Merari ends may be due to a possessive form, and the name Merari may mean My Bitterness or My Strength. For a meaning of the name Merari, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Bitter. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Bitterness.