🔼The name Sychar: Summary
- Wage, Drunk
- From either of the verbs שכר (sakar), to hire and to be drunk.
🔼The name Sychar in the Bible
The name Sychar occurs only once in the Bible. It's the name of the Samaritan city where Jesus met the unnamed lady at Jacob's well and told her about the Living Water (John 4:5). It's probable that Jacob built his well near where he settled, so it's likely that the town of Sychar was close to Shechem.
In Greek the names Sychar (Συχαρ) and Shechem (Συχεμ) are considerably alike, which has prompted some scholars to proposed that the two might be the same. But this is rather an odd demand since Shechem is actually mentioned in Acts 7:16 as Shechem and not as Sychar, and the story of Jesus and the unnamed Samaritan is neither a report of an inconsequential encounter in the desert, nor a geography lesson, but rather a continuation of the much broader meta-narrative of the Woman At The Well that is repeated in many guises in the Old Testament, and which rather discusses the challenged relationship between the ratio and the human emotive heart.
See for a more detailed discussion of this our article on the noun φρεαρ (phrear), meaning well.
🔼Etymology of the name Sychar
The name Sychar comes from either of the Hebrew verbs שכר (sakar), meaning to hire and to be drunk:
The difference between the letters שׁ (shin) and שׂ (sin) didn't exist until scholars began to differentiate between them in the Middle Ages. Dictionaries will list the verbs שׂכר (sakar) and שׁכר (sakar) as two wholly different verbs, but to the people who wrote the Bible and those who read it for many centuries after, there was only one verb שכר (skr):
The verb שכר (sakar) means to hire, but note that in societies where money wasn't prevalent or quite literally a luxury item, workers would commonly be paid food, drink and protection. Nouns שכר (seker) and שכר (sakar) mean wage and noun משכרת (maskoret) means wages. Adjective שכיר (sakir) means hired and may be used substantially to denote employed men or deployed items.
The verb שכר (shakar) means to be or become drunk, which is what happens when workers get paid in beer, as was customary for instance in Egypt. In fact, in early cities, water was often undrinkable and beer the only beverage.
Noun שכר (shekar) denotes a drink that makes drunk. Adjective שכר or שכור (shikkor) means drunken or drunken one. And noun שכרון (shikkaron) means drunkenness.