🔼The name Paran: Summary
- From the verb פאר (pa'ar), to glorify.
🔼The name Paran in the Bible
The name Paran belongs to a region to the south of Edom, occupying the north-east corner of the Sinai peninsula, in the same general area as the Negev and the Arabah. Somewhere there was a town or otherwise geographic feature called El-paran, which marked the southernmost extent of Horite territory by the time of the War of Four Against Five Kings (Genesis 14:6).
Paran also contained an eponymous mountain, Mount Paran, which appears to have played a generally underestimated part in Israel's redemptive history. In his great blessing, Moses declared that YHWH came from Sinai and dawned on Israel from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2). In similar plauditory terms, the prophet Habakkuk exclaimed, "God comes from Teman [the capital of Edom], and the Holy One from Mount Paran" (Habakkuk 3:3).
We hear first of Paran as the area where Ishmael and presumably Hagar dwelled after they were expelled from Abraham's camp (Genesis 21:21), and like Israel, Ishmael became the patriarch of twelve tribes (Genesis 25:16).
Centuries later, Israel was on the move in the wilderness, and after they had constructed the tabernacle, the Shekinah guided them from the Sinai to the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 10:12), and, after more journeying, returned there (Numbers 12:16). Moses sent the twelve spies to scout out Canaan from there (Numbers 13:3, 13:26).
🔼Etymology of the name Paran
The name Paran appears to derive from the verb פאר (pa'ar), meaning to glorify:
The verb פאר (pa'ar) means to glorify. Noun פאר (pe'er) refers to an ornate headdress, like a turban. The more abstract noun תפארה (tip'ara) means beauty or glory.
It seems that our verb's most essential meaning is that of branching out or even to diversify into a spectrum of glorious nuances. Noun פארה (po'ra) means branch (of a tree or vine). The denominative verb פאר (pa'ar) would literally mean to branch but in practice describes a progression in the direction in which a branch grows (rather than the reverse). Noun פארור (par'ur) appears the describe a spectrum of facial expressions.
For a meaning of the name Paran, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names explains the verb פאר (pa'ar) to mean having a lot of branches, and arrives at Abounding In Foliage, which is rather liberal, if not a tad unlikely. NOBSE Study Bible Name List doesn't translate Paran, and neither does BDB Theological Dictionary, but BDB lists it under פאר (p'r II), which seems to agree with Jones.
Here at Abarim Publications we doubt very much that a proverbially dry wilderness would be named after lush vegetation. We find it much more likely that Paran was named Glorious because somewhere in that general area the Lord of Life deposited his Law in written format among mankind. The next time something like that happened was when the Word of the Lord was deposited in human format, in the flesh of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).