🔼The name Pashhur: Summary
- Unclear but possibly: Scattered in Caves, or Dispersed Over Various Centers
- From (1) the verb פשח (pashah), to tear in pieces, and (2) the root חרר (harar), to be a central hub of heat.
🔼The name Pashhur in the Bible
It's not clear how many different named Pashhur there are in the Bible. NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary both count five; Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names lists four. Here at Abarim Publications, we're guessing that there is only one. But here are the candidates:
- A priestly son of Immer the chief priest and not a very nice fellow. When Jeremiah prophesies about the impending invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, Pashhur had Jeremiah arrested, tortured and incarcerated (Jeremiah 20:1). When he let him out the following day, Jeremiah informed his tormentor that YHWH didn't call him Pashhur, but rather Magor-missabib, because he was going to have him deported and make him a terror to himself and al his friends on account of his false prophesying (Jeremiah 20:6).
- A son of Malchijah who king Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord about Nebuchadnezzar's plans for Judah (Jeremiah 21:1). This same man appears to have been among the officials who advised the king to execute Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:1). Since these events occurred before the deportation, this Pashhur is probably the same as the one mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:12, whose grandson Adaiah, son of Jehoram, is mentioned among the priests who returned from Babylon. Nehemiah also mentions a man named Adaiah, son of Jehoram, who was the great-great-great-grandson of a Pashhur son of Malchijah (Nehemiah 11:12). These could be all the same people (Hebrew genealogies often skip a few generations) but they could very well be other people (repetitions of chunks of genealogy occur at times). There's no telling.
- The father of Gedaliah, who was a member of the royal counsel that wanted to have Jeremiah killed (Jeremiah 38:1). It's possible that this Pashhur is the same as the previous one(s), but note that Pashhur son of Malchijah is mentioned separately in this verse (which still doesn't either indicate or exclude that there are two).
- The patriarch of a priestly family of "sons of Pashhur," of which 1,247 returned from exile (Ezra 2:38, Nehemiah 7:41), and of which six had married and would divorce their foreign wives during the purge of Ezra (assuming that these "sons of Pashhur" descended from the same Pashhur).
Here at Abarim Publications we're guessing that the term "sons of Pashhur" denoted a sub-clan of the "sons of Immer," which in turn was a sub-clan of the "sons of Aaron" through either Eleazar or Ithamar. There's only one Pashhur.
🔼Etymology of the name Pashhur
It's not immediately clear what the name Pashhur might mean or where it may have come from. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) sees relations with an existing Arabic name, having to do with being glorious, and relates that to the Hebrew noun חר (hor), meaning noble or nobleman:
The root חרר (harar) describes a society's central and enclosed source of heat. It thus may express a geographical depression, but more so a being hot and ultimately a being a ruler (whether by might, political clout or wisdom).
Verb חרר (harar I) means to be hot, burned or charred. Noun חרר (harer) denotes a parched place and noun חרחר (harhur) describes a violent heat or fever. The unused verb חרר (harar II) means to be free in cognate languages, which is the opposite of being a slave. Noun חר (hor) means noble or nobleman. The unused verb חרר (harar III) appears to refer to the enclosure of kilns and ovens, as the first ones were most likely built in natural hollows. The nouns חר (hor) and חור (hor) mean hole or cavern, but obviously relate to the previous word in that freemen surround themselves with walls and armies.
Verb חרה (hara) means to burn or ignite (in the Bible solely in an emotional way: to get angry). Noun חרון (haron) describes the burning of anger. Noun חרי (hori) refers to a general burning.
Verb חור (hawar) means to be or grow white (like ash or baked bricks). Nouns חור (hur) and חורי (huray) refer to any white stuff, including garments and linen, and noun חרי (hori) describes white bread or cake.
Verb נחר (nahar) looks very much like a passive or reflexive version of חרר (harar) or its participle. This verb isn't used in the Bible but nouns נחר (nahar) and נחרה (naharah) describe the vigorous snorting of a horse, and noun נחיר (nahir) means nostril (which in turn reminds of a cavern).
A Hebrew audience, and especially one unfamiliar with Arabic names, would probably have also made a connection between our name and the verb פשח (pashah) means to tear in pieces:
The verb פצץ (pasas) means to break apart or scatter and so does this verb's by-form פוץ (pus). Noun מפיץ (mepis) describes a scatterer or disperser. Either an identical other verb פוץ (pus) or the same one may also describe an overflowing (of springs or cities), which is an action obviously not far removed from scattering.
Verb פוש (push) appears to have the same meaning as פוץ (pus I) and means to scatter. Either an identical other verb פוש (push) or the same one may also describe the darting about of young calves, which is really rather similar to scattering.
Verb פשח (pashah) means to tear in pieces.
To a Hebrew audience the name Pashhur might have looked like a contraction of the phrase פשח חור; meaning a Scattering Of Caverns or Scattered In Caves, which in turn brings to mind the hidden libraries of the Essenes which were found in caves in Qumran.
For a meaning of the name Pashhur, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Free and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Most Noble. BDB Theological Dictionary says nothing about a possible meaning of this name.