🔼The name Seir: Summary
- The Hairy Guys, Bucks, Horrors, Riders On The Storm
- From the root שער (s'r), which expresses intense negative emotion and the experience of violence.
🔼The name Seir in the Bible
There are two mountains and one man named Seir in the Bible, although it seems clear that the man's name and that of one of the mountain are intertwined. The Seirs of the Bible are:
- A mountain settled by the Horites, of which we first hear in the War of Four Against Five Kings. During this war the Horites of Mount Seir were defeated by the tetrad alliance headed by kings Chedorlaomer of Elam and Amraphel of Shinar (Genesis 14:6). The region around Mount Seir was simply known as Seir or the land of Seir, but YHWH "destroyed" the indigenous Horites (the details of this endeavor have not survived to us; Deuteronomy 2:22). Esau, the brother of Jacob, settled in Seir, which since then also became known as Edom (Genesis 32:3, 36:8). Much later, while Israel was wandering the wilderness, Mount Seir was situated on a major traffic route (Deuteronomy 1:2). Israel was not allowed to war with their brothers living at Seir (Deuteronomy 2:5), but the pagan prophet Balaam foresaw the coming of the Messiah, who would take violent control over Seir and its surrounding nations (Numbers 24:18). At around the same time, the Edomites of Seir were destroyed by the Ammonites and Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:23). Later still, the remnant of the Amalekites also somehow managed to make their way to Seir, but their stay was cut short by a band of Simeonites who destroyed them during the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah (1 Chronicles 4:43). The Edomites of Seir weren't completely wiped out, however, because by the time of king Amaziah of Judah another 20,000 were killed in battle and afterwards (2 Chronicles 25:11-12; and king Amaziah thought it clever to adopt the gods of Edom, even though they obviously hadn't been very beneficial to Edom either: 2 Chronicles 25:14). That Edom still wasn't extinct is demonstrated by the rise of the Herodian dynasty, because the Herods were Edomites.
- A patriarch of the Horites (Genesis 36:20-30). Judging from the chronology of Genesis 36, this patriarch could have given his name to the region before the War of Four Against Five Kings. But he could also have been named after the mountain. Certain is that the two are related.
- A mountain situated on the north-western border of the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:10). This Mount Seir "west of the Jordan" is also mentioned during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 11:17, 12:7).
🔼Etymology of the name Seir
The name Seir comes to us from other languages (probably Horite), but written in Hebrew it looks like it has to do with any of the roots שער (s'r).
The general root שער (s'r) appears to primarily express intense negative emotion or the experience of violence. Curiously, it also yields words that have to do with hair.
Noun שער (se'ar) means hair or hairdo, and noun שערה (sa'ara) denotes a single hair. The derived denominative verb שער (sa'ar) would literally means to be hairy or "hairish" but in fact is solely used to mean to be very afraid. Taking the liberty to back-engineer this verb yields the observation that a single hair would have to be associated with a single fear, a full head of hair with lots of concerns, and a bald pate with either a stoic mastery or else a blissfully empty head.
Noun שער (sa'r), means horror. Adjective שעיר (sa'ir) means hairy. Noun שעיר (sa'ir) denotes a he-goat (a bristly guy or a fear guy?) and its feminine counterpart שעירה (sa'ira) means she-goat. Noun שערה (se'ora) means barley, the bearded grain.
Verb שער (sa'ar) means to sweep or whirl away, usually in relation to a storm wind. Nouns שער (sa'ar) and its feminine counterpart שערה (se'ara) mean storm. These words also occur in an alternative spelling, namely as the verb סער (sa'ar), to storm, and nouns סער (sa'ar) and סערה (seara), storm.
In the Middle Ages, scholars began to add dots and points to the Scriptures. All previous words they equipped with a dot on the left tooth of the letter ש, hence שׂ (sin), whereas the following words were spelled with a dot to the right, hence שׁ (shin). To the original authors and the first thousand years of their readers, this difference did not exist.
Verb שער (sha'ar) exists in other languages with the meaning of to break, tear through or split, which obviously repeats the general theme of the experience of violence. The adjective שער (sho'ar) means horrid or disgusting, and nouns שערורה (sha'arura), שערוריה (sha'aruriya) and שעררית (sha'arurit) denote horror or horrible things.
Much more neutral are the nouns שער (sha'ar), gate, and שער (sho'er), gatekeeper or porter. These words suggests that the ancients associated a hair emerging from skin to traffic emerging from a city gate, like words flowing from an overfilled heart. This in turn suggests that when a grieving person pulls his or her hair out, he or she becomes silent with grief.
The verb שער (sha'ar) is also used to mean to calculate or reckon, obviously with an emphasis on the verbal conveyance of something internally experienced. Noun שער (sha'ar) is also used to mean "fold" in the sense of "a hundred fold."
These things considered, the name Seir must have instilled terror in the hearts of anyone who heard it. The Seirites were known as The Hairy Guys, Bucks, and Riders On The Storm. All the more reason to fear the Edomites, who displaced the original Seirites.
For a meaning of the name Seir, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Hairy, Shaggy. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Rough, Bristly.