🔼The name Misrephoth-maim: Summary
- Burning Of Waters
- From (1) the verb שרף (sarap), to burn, and (2) the noun מים (mayim), waters.
🔼The name Misrephoth-maim in the Bible
The name Misrephoth-maim belongs to a place that marked the edge of the battle field on which Israel under Joshua fought against the Canaanite alliance of king Jabin of Hazor (Joshua 11:8, spelled משרפות מים).
The latter had heard about Joshua's victory over the Ammonites (during which the sun and the moon famously stood still at Gibeon and the valley of Aijalon) and rounded up every colleague king he could find to stop the invasion. They camped at the waters of Merom, where Joshua attacked.
The allies fled and Joshua pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, until there was not one allied soldier left standing.
Misrephoth-maim is mentioned once more, when the Lord tells the now aging Joshua how he will drive out the remaining indigenous population of Canaan, including the Sidonians of the hill country, from Lebanon as far as Misrephoth-maim (Joshua 13:6, spelled משרפת מים).
🔼Etymology of the name Misrephoth-maim
The name Misrephoth-maim obviously consists of two elements. The first part of our name is the plural form of the feminine noun משרפה (masrepa), meaning a burning, which comes from the verb שרף (sarap), meaning to burn:
The verb שרף (sarap) means to burn — to literally burn with fire, rather than metaphorically with passion or something like that — with an emphasis on a burning up or a destruction by means of fire.
Nouns שרפה (serepa) and משרפה (masrepa) mean a burning. Noun שרף (sarap) denotes a sort of serpent or viper, suggesting that to the ancients a snake's movements and the sudden destruction it may inflict, even its propensity to suddenly burst forth in large numbers, seemed akin flames.
Possibly related to the previous, the verb שרב (sharab) means to scorch or parch. Noun שרב (sharab) means heat or parched ground.
The second part of our name is the word מים (mayim), meaning waters:
The noun מים (mayim) means water, or rather: waters. It's a plural word for which there is no singular form. But if there were it would be מי (mi), which is identical to the common particle of inquisition, מי (mi), meaning "who?". In constructions (waters of such and such), the final ם (m) drops off, and what remains is identical to our particle of inquisition.
Water represents the great unknown from which the dry land (ארץ, 'eres) of the known emerges. The ancients knew that vapor rises from the seas and becomes rain and compared this cycle to that of cognition (Isaiah 55:10-1). The words for rain and teacher are the same: מורה (moreh), which are closely related to the familiar word Torah.
For a meaning of the name Misrephoth-maim, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Burning Of Waters and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has the similar The Burnings Of Waters. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret our name but does list it under the root שרף (sarap).