🔼The name Pirathon: Summary
- Place Of The Little Pharaohs, Town Of The Confederation
- From the verb פרע (para'), to bundle without restriction.
🔼The name Pirathon in the Bible
The name Pirathon belongs to a town in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites (Judges 12:15). This town is mentioned only once but there are two men referred to as Pirathonite (פרעתני) in the Bible:
- Hillel the Pirathonite, whose son Abdon became the judge of Israel in succession of Elon the Zebulunite (Judges 12:13). When Abdon died he was buried at Pirathon.
- Benaiah Pirathonite, who was named among the thirty mighty-men of David (2 Samuel 23:30). In Chronicles 11:31 Benaiah is called the Pirathonite, which is more common for an ethnonym but it suggests that this name might not be an ethnonym but rather a common descriptive epithet. In 1 Chronicles 27:14 Benaiah the Pirathonite is listed as the eleventh commander of Israel for the eleventh month.
🔼Etymology of the name Pirathon
The name Pirathon (פרעתון) appears to be constructed from the Hebrew version of the title Pharaoh (פרעה), which in Egyptian means Great House (and which referred to the palace and indirectly to the Egyptian state, rather than its single leader) but in Hebrew it means something like Confederacy, that is a voluntary union of independent families, tribes or cities:
The verb פרע (para') means to bundle without restriction. It may refer to the formation of a tribal confederacy (i.e. a freely joined alliance that benefits all participants), which might come about either spontaneous or via a human catalyst, who would then be known by the noun פרע (pera'). For lack of a better word, this noun is commonly translated with "leader" but it rather denotes someone who emphasizes voluntary participation and preserved autonomy rather than submission to some higher authority.
The noun פרע (pera') also describes a lock or bundle of otherwise freely moving hair such as a pony tail. The word for hair, namely שער (se'ar), additionally describes the cognitive quality of being familiar with or afraid of something. In that sense, loose hair signifies freely expressed feelings, bundled hair signifies free expressions concerning a particular topic, braided hair signifies synthetically crafted discourse, and bound and covered hair (by a turban or a hat) signifies restrained and unexpressed feelings.
In a negative sense, the verb פרע (para') may refer to getting out of control, or assuming a degree of freedom where a governed, disciplined or regulated state is preferred.
The name Pirathon resembles a plural or archaic form of an otherwise unused feminine version of the masculine noun פרע (pera'), which describes someone or something that bundles freely participating people into a confederacy.
For a meaning of the name Pirathon, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary appear to assume that being a leader equals being high and lofty and translate our name with Height. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) goes a step further and assumes that a person who is high and lofty is also prone to inflicting revenge upon his enemies, and translates our name with Just Revenge.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the town and both the judge and the mighty-man were named after a method of social formation that also sits at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and which would make Israel a "kingdom of kings" (Daniel 2:44, 1 Timothy 6:14-15, Revelation 5:10, 17:14), namely by the joining of autonomous people without compromising anybody's freedom and autonomy and in fact adding to it (Galatians 5:1). Our name means [Town] Of The Confederation, and since the early Scriptures respect Egypt as ancestral (rather than reject it as some mere fruitless oppressor), our name even means Place Of The Little Pharaohs.