🔼The name Perizzite: Summary
- Non-urbanite, Wildling, Rural
- From the noun פרזי (perazi), rural or villager.
🔼The name Perizzite in the Bible
The Perizzites were a tribe that lived in Canaan prior to the Israelite conquest and remained there long after. Canaan was home to several distinct Canaanite tribes but the Perizzites are commonly mentioned alongside them rather than one of them, as in Genesis 13:7, which reads "Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land" (also see Genesis 34:30).
In Genesis 15:20, YHWH promises Abraham all the lands between Egypt and the Euphrates, and mentions the Perizzites between the Hittites and the Rephaim, who would be extinct by the time of Joshua. But Canaan appears to have been a hotspot for a wide variety of peoples, indigenous and foreign (Exodus 3:8, 3:17, 23:23, Joshua 9:1, 11:3, Nehemiah 9:8), which is a quality it never lost (1 Kings 10:24, Acts 2:5), although many of the early tribes were destined to be discontinued (Exodus 33:2, 34:11, Deuteronomy 7:1, 20:17, Joshua 3:10, 12:8, 24:11, Judges 1:4-5).
This is of course not about mass murder and ethnic cleansing but about the discontinuation of cultural identities, primarily because the artistic expressions and signature technology of these tribes were surpassed in quality by the technology of other tribes with whom they coexisted (Joshua 17:15, Judges 3:5). This same natural process caused modern Europe to largely abandon its native schlagers and chansons and embrace American rock and roll. Schlagers and chansons will never truly die out and likewise remnants of the Perizzites remained for Solomon to levy forced laborers from (1 Kings 9:20. 2 Chronicles 8:7). They were still there by the time the Jews returned from Babel (Ezra 9:1).
🔼Etymology of the name Perizzite
The name Perizzite is identical to the noun פרזי (perazi), meaning rural or villager:
The unused verb פרז (perez) probably meant to go beyond a border or limit. Noun פרז (perez) describes an army's first wave of attackers, who were commonly equipped with spears. Noun פרזה (perazah) refers to rural hamlets, noun פרזי (perazi) describes a person who lives there and noun פרזון (perazon) collectively describes the rural population.
For a meaning of the name Perizzites, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Villagers and NOBSE Study Bible Name List has the elaborate Dwellers In The Open Country. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an explanation for our name and expresses doubt whether it technically derives from our root (which wouldn't change the meaning of it relative to the story).
By the time Israel invaded Canaan, there appear to have been two distinct forms of society present, namely an urban society based on cities surrounded by large agricultural estates, and a feral society based on small tribal groups that had retained a semi-nomadic or hunter lifestyle.
The name Canaanite appears to have applied mostly to the urban society. The urban society had a complex economy, was endowed with functional diversity and was stratified into classes. It had political leaders, a wisdom class, a central treasury and collective storehouses of accumulated surplus, and a class of professional soldiers to guard and enforce rule. It had complex technology such as roads, buildings and machinery. And it had script, administration and legal codes. The name Perizzite appears to have referred to people who wanted none of all of that, who rejected urban living, centralized leadership and complex technology. The price they paid for their freedom was that they also had no script and hence no wisdom beyond that which was passed on to them orally.