🔼The name Serah: Summary
- Princess, Senate
- Unrestrained, Abundance
- From the noun שרה (sara), ruling body, from the verb שרר (sharar), to retain liquidity.
- From the noun סרח (serah), excess, from the verb סרח (sarah), to go free.
🔼The name Serah in the Bible
Serah is the daughter of Asher, the son of Jacob (Genesis 46:17). The only thing we know about her is that she was one of the sixty-six persons who came with Jacob to Egypt to live in Goshen (Genesis 46:26).
🔼Etymology of the name Serah
The sources are divided about where the name might come from because there's nothing in the Hebrew language that looks like it.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names notices the high similarity between the names שרח (Serah) and שרה (Sarah) — even the Masoretic symbols are identical — but seems to overlook a crucial difference: Serah is spelled with a ח (heth) while Sarah comes with the ה (he), and although these letters may look alike somewhat, they're really as different as a whale and a fish. Other notorious look-alike letters are the ד (daleth or d) and ר (resh or r); and the letters ו (waw or w/u) and ז (zayin or z) and the letters ס (samekh or s) and the final ם (mem or m at the end of a word).
Perhaps anyone from a Hebrew audience would readily mistake our letter O from the letter D, especially when they are handwritten, but it would be incorrect.
Thus Jones reads Serah as Sarah II and translates both names with Princess, taken from the verb שרר (sarar), meaning to rule or govern:
Root שרר (sharar) has to do with rigidity resulting from the absorption and retention of liquids (called turgor in plants), liquidity in economy, or data in IT and so on — and the ultimate effects thereof. The promise of Jesus', that streams of living water would emerge from within (John 7:38), tells of a curing of social lymphedema, when pools of stagnant wealth (whether fat, cash or data) are re-released into society to benefit all (for more on this, see our article on the noun δουλος, doulos).
Noun שר (sar) means chief or ruler (someone in whom a society's wealth is concentrated). Its feminine form, שרה (sara), denotes a princess, noble lady or perhaps a ruling class collectively. The denominative verb שרר (sarar) means to be a chief.
Noun שרירות (sherirut) describes firmness in a negative sense: stubbornness. Noun שר (shor) refers to the umbilical cord and noun שרה (shera) to a bracelet of some sort. Noun שריר (sharir) apparently denotes a sinew or muscle.
Mystery verb שרה (sara) is used only to describe what Jacob did with the Angel (Genesis 32:29 and Hosea 12:4). It's traditionally been translated as "to wrestle," but it obviously metaphorizes Israel's formation into a political unity based on the retention of knowledge and skills. Derived noun משרה (misra) literally means "place or agent of שרה (sara)." It occurs only in the famous prediction that "the misra will be upon his shoulders" (Isaiah 9:6).
Verb שרה (shara) means to fill and release. Noun משרה (mishra) denotes the juice of grapes. Noun שריה (shirya) denotes a kind of weapon and noun שריון (shiryon) or שרין (shiryan) describes body armor — the link between physical, political and intellectual rigidity is obvious (see Ephesians 6:14).
Another solution to this mystery lies in the events described in Judges 12:6. Originally there was no difference between the letters שׁ (shin or 'sh') and שׂ (sin or 's') — see the shift of the dot on top — but at some point the singular letter ש began to be pronounced in two different ways, either depending on where the speaker was from or else on the word the letter occurred in. But this resulted in a phonetic similarity between the newly arising letter שׂ (sin or s) and the already existing letter ס (samekh or s), and the two began to be interchangeable. This is demonstrated in Judges 12:6, where men of Gilead identify men of Ephraim by making them say the word שׁבלת (shibboleth), meaning an ear of corn. The Ephraimites pronounced that word as שׂבלת (sibboleth), which identified them as the enemy and got 42,000 of them killed. The scribes who penned down this story chose to write the impossible word שׂבלת as the even less possible סבלת (sibboleth with the samekh).
Had the men of Gilead not slain all those men of Ephraim, the Ephraim way might have become standard, and we might have had a completely different Bible now.
But all this means that when we come across a hapax legomenon (that's a word of which only one written occurrence exists) that is spelled with either a שׁ, a שׂ or a ס, should always check to see if there might be a word spelled with any of the others, and that fits the context of the word we're trying to understand. And sure enough, the word שרח (serah) does not exist but the word סרח (sarah) does:
The verb סרח (sarah) means to go free or go without bounds (of camels, hair, tent covers, lounging people, and so on). Noun סרח (serah) means excess.
Ergo, the name Serah means Unrestrained. NOBSE Study Bible Name List, we're happy to report, agrees and reads Abundance.