🔼The name Meroz: Summary
- Refuge, Place Of The Cedars
- Place Of The Myriad, Place Of The Costliness
- From the Semitic verb ארז ('erez), to withdraw or hide.
- From the Greek verb μυριζω (murizo), to anoint with very costly oil.
🔼The name Meroz in the Bible
The name Meroz occurs only once in the Bible, namely in the epyllion Song of Deborah and Barak, in which Meroz and its inhabitants are utterly cursed "because they did not come to the help of YHWH" (Judges 5:23).
It's traditionally not clear where this Meroz was situated, or in what way or form they refused to help YHWH, or even in what way this was related to the battle of Israel against the Canaanite king Jabin and his general Sisera of Harosheth-hagoyim, but the theories run all over the place (mostly concluding that Meroz was a boring hamlet situated somewhere unfortunately close to the battle field and filled with lazy people, which makes the outburst of the angel of YHWH rather reactionary and these theories as incredulous as unimaginative).
🔼The Song of Deborah and Barak
Intense scrutiny of the texts has convinced a majority of scholars that the Song of Deborah and Barak is among the oldest elements of the Bible, with Judges 4 a legendary backformation from Judges 5. The Song of Deborah and Barak may even have been extracted from the elusive Book of the Wars of YHWH (mentioned in Numbers 21:14), which may or may not be the same as the Book of Jashar (which also contained the story of the Battle of Beth-horon and David's agonizing Song of the Bow).
Here at Abarim Publications we have no objections to this theory. However, we hold that the Biblical stories of journeys and wars were possibly based on real world events but never meant to be journalistic reports of them. Like Homer's epics, these stories rather reflect advances in wisdom (skills, technology and science; see our article on the name Hochma) and the battle between pursuers of Truth (Israel) and the servers of self (in this case, Canaan).
That means that the battle of which Deborah and Barak sang may employ real-war imagery merely to discuss the intensity of a naturally evolving culture's struggle with its competing neighbors, with its own past, with its fears and angers, and ultimately its desire for a properly functioning society, where peace and justice result from perfect stewardship, which in turn results from understanding creation.
🔼A literary masterpiece
In matters of the human heart, the ancients were vastly better informed than us moderns, and an explanation of a piece as thoughtful as the Song of Deborah and Barak cannot possible be achieved in a single paragraph. But to give a few hints: the names Canaan and Kishon may represent the intrinsic human drive to acquire wealth for oneself, and by extension, one's family, tribe or country. King Jabin and general Sisera may embody the kind of ruthless intelligence that even today produces its iron chariots, while thrusting entire nations into bankruptcy (Judges 4:3).
When modern readers read of "kings" who came and fought the kings-of-Canaan at Megiddo, they will immediately remember that the name Christ (Christian) denotes a free human being's personal kinghood and that the final, apocalyptic battle will be fought at Har Megiddo, or Armageddon — these fundamental themes are not common-era inventions, as many believe, but are in fact quite ancient.
The image of stars who "fought from heaven" (Judges 5:20) goes very far (too far to now expound) but it's doubtlessly connected to the righteous seed of Abraham (Genesis 15:5, Daniel 12:3, see Genesis 1:14-15, Isaiah 9:2, Galatians 3:16).
🔼Meroz is another planet...
As a Biblical favorite of Ancient Alien theorists, Meroz is often reported to be another planet ("as confirmed by the Bible and other ancient Jewish sources," or something excitedly superlative like that), whose alien inhabitants frequented earth but refrained to provide assistance to Israel in its invasive struggle against the indigenous Canaanites tribes. But, we're somewhat sad to submit, ancient Jewish sources are at best ambiguous about extra-terrestrial life.
Jewish wisdom concentrates proverbially "on the task at hand" and offers very little allegiance to speculative contemplations whose scopes zip out of this observable world. The ascensions of Elijah and Jesus remain enticing, of course, but if there was common congress between earthly sages and ET's other than angels, we would expect greater detail, particularly in Jewish folklore, and not an utter absence of references to this effect in the colossal library of Jewish social and religious commentaries.
The Jewish source-text that allegedly confirms that Meroz is an extraterrestrial planet is the Talmud, and more specifically the tractate called Mo'ed Katan, chapter 16a, in which a certain Rabbi discusses the consequences of not showing up when summoned (specifically the brothers Dathan and Abiram, who were called into the Lord's presence but decided on a rain check, to their subsequent live descent into Sheol — Numbers 16:12).
🔼Perfect in beauty
The wise Rabbi taught that these no-showers are to be cursed (specifically with the shammetha, a blast of 400 horns, followed by cursing, smiting, hair-plucking and swearing), just like the Angel of YHWH ordered the utter curse of Meroz. And so that his audience knew what he was talking about, the Rabbi continued, "Some say that Meroz was a great hero, others say that it was a star, as it is written: 'They fought from Heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera'".
Far from stating that Meroz was another planet, the Rabbi submits that Meroz was either a man (or tribe or school of thought) of great renown or else a man of even greater renown, namely one of the righteous ones (the word for star comes from the word for light; a luminary). And far from soliciting images from a science fiction movie, these statements bring to mind what Ezekiel wrote about the king of Tyre: you were wiser than Daniel (Ezekiel 28:3), you had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (28:12), blameless in your ways (28:15, and in case you are tempted to think that Ezekiel speaks of satan, read our article on the name Lucifer).
The "king of Tyre", of course, stands for the wisdom tradition of the Phoenicians, the inventors of the alphabet that gave the Semitic nations their decisive advantage over Egypt, and the builders of the temple of YHWH in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5:7-12; for more on the Phoenicians, see our article on the name Hannibal).
Which brings us to the etymology of the name Meroz:
🔼Etymology of the name Meroz
The unused verb ארז ('araz) probably meant to be firm (it does so in cognate languages), and noun ארז ('erez) means cedar. Noun ארזה ('arza) means cedar-woodwork. Adjective ארוז ('aruz) probably means firm, strong or dependable.
Whether or not the noun תרזה (tirza) is related to the previous, it also describes a sort of tree, which is assumed to be the cypress.
The letter מ (mem) with which our name starts may be a prefix that denotes "an agent of place of..". and the inserted ו (waw) points toward a participle. The name Meroz (מרוז) is probably a contraction of the phrase מארוז (me'eroz), meaning Place Of Withdrawing or perhaps even Place Of Extraction.
Here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure that our name Meroz may also be interpreted as Place Of The Cedars and that it denotes Phoenicia. And to take that even further: the Phoenicians were renowned for their much-demanded purple dye (Mark 15:17, Acts 16:14), which they produced from a kind of sea snail. This creature is known today by its Latin name, which has been in use since centuries before Christ, but of which the origin is formally obscure: the Murex (murex, muricis), which is clearly not too far removed from our name Meroz.
The name Meroz, in turn, is not too far removed from the Greek verb μυριζω (murizo), meaning to anoint or sprinkle with μυρον (muron), which denotes a costly ointment:
The adjective μυριος (murios) and noun μυριας (murias) mean either an uncountable myriad or else roughly ten thousand.
The verb μυρω (muro) means to flow or trickle (of tears or blood and such). The derived noun μυρον (muron) means oil or ointment, but a proverbially expensive one. This noun in turn yields the verb μυριζω (murizo), to sprinkle with costly oil.
It may be that these words are linked to the creature called Murex (murex, muricis), from which the Phoenicians made their signature purple dye. There may even be relations with the word σμυρνα (smurna) or myrrh, the proverbial oil with which the consummation of marriage was celebrated.
For a meaning of the name Meroz, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Refuge. BDB Theological Dictionary indeed lists our name under the root ארז ('erez) and cites Gesenius' translation of Retreat.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the reference to the name Meroz in the Song of Deborah and Barak points at the Phoenician culture, and particularly its primary industry of cedars and purple production that brought Phoenicia its signature wealth.
Ergo: the name Meroz means Place Of The Cedars, Place Of The Myriad and Place Of The Costliness.