🔼The name Tel-harsha: Summary
- Mound Of The Craftsman's Work, Mound Of Carvings
- From (1) the noun תל (tel), mound, and (2) the verb חרשׁ (harash), to carve.
🔼The name Tel-harsha in the Bible
The name Tel-harsha occurs twice in the Bible but in the same context. Both Ezra and Nehemiah report that hundreds of people (Ezra says 652, Nehemiah counts 642) returned from the Babylonian exile, having not only been robbed of dignity, culture and decades of their lives, also of any records to show that their families truly originated in Israel and not somewhere else (Ezra 2:59, Nehemiah 7:61; the returnees came with substantial gifts from the Persian government and rightfully expected profiteers from less lavishly endowed peoples to hitch a ride).
And since they were unable to submit any proof of their legal Jewishness, the sons of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda were most probably banned again and turned into Samaritans. People who could apparently show that their families were of priestly descent but not precisely how they related to Aaron, where only excluded from the priesthood (Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65, see Numbers 16:40).
Note that just prior to Tel-harsha, both Ezra and Nehemiah mention a Harsha as patriarch of a family of Nethinim (Ezra 2:52, Nehemiah 7:54).
🔼Etymology of the name Tel-harsha
The name Tel-harsha consists of two elements. The first part of our name is the noun תל (tel), which denotes a place of repeated destruction and rebuilding:
The verb תלל (talal) means to accumulate or repeatedly cover over, and that in a destructive sense. Noun תל (tel) describes an artificial mound of many layers of destruction and rebuilding. Such mounds would obviously be found on desirable and contended locations. Quite telling, the derived verb התל (hatal) means to mock a person. Noun התלים (hatulim) means mockery.
The second part of our name is the same as Harsha, which in turn comes from the root group חרשׁ (harash):
Verb חרש (harash I) means to engrave or cut into something, often with the objective of storing information. Noun חרשׁ (harash) means engraver or cutter (of a wide range of materials). Noun חרשׁת (haroshet) means a carving. Noun חרישׁ (harish) means a plowing or plowing time, and nouns מחרשׁה (maharesha) and מחרשׁת (mahareshet) mean ploughshare (and remember the strong Biblical connection between spreading seeds and spreading words).
Perhaps a whole other verb (and perhaps the same one) is חרש (harash II), to be silent or to be deaf. How these two verbs relate isn't clear but perhaps information technology was reckoned as "speech yet silent" and "hearing yet deaf", or else the intersection might lay on the esoteric nature of information technology. Then as today, people who are highly skilled in it may seem like magicians to the rest of us. Adjective חרשׁ (heresh) means deaf and adverb חרשׁ (heresh) means silently or secretly.
Noun חרש (horesh) appears to refer to wooded heights. How that word fits in isn't clear (most scholars assume a 3rd verb: harash III) but it may connect to the rest via the noun חרש (heresh), magic. This rare noun is proposed to come from yet another identical verb, harash IV, but here at Abarim Publications we find this noun to match the previous stock neatly. Particularly when a craft is new and it's not clear what a new technology is supposed to do, scammers of all sorts arise.
Verb חרש (haras) was originally spelled identical to the previous (the difference between שׂ and שׁ originated in the Middle Ages). It means to scratch or lacerate, but instead of storing good information this root emphasizes deletion of bad information (a similar duality exists in the verb זרע, zara', to scatter to sow, and זרה, zara, to scatter to winnow).
Noun חרשׂ (heres) means earthenware or rather a fragment of earthenware. Noun חרס (heres) denotes an eruptive disease characterized by itchy skin irritation (note the alternation between the letters שׂ, sin, and ס, samekh). The feminine plural noun חרסות (harsit) or חרסית (harsit) mean potsherds.
Noun חרס (heres) is an unusual word for the sun and although scholars see no connection with the previous, here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the ancients saw a connection between baked clay and a tanned skin, both protective and both provoked by exposure to a source of heat.
For a meaning of the name Tel-harsha, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Mound Of The Craftsman's Work and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes a curious Hill Of Plowing (and this while both translate the name Harsha with Enchanter).
BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of our name and lists it under the noun תל (tel).