🔼The name Tirathites: Summary
- Doors Keepers, Correctors Of Spelling Errors
- From the Aramaic noun תרע (tera'), door, or the Hebrew adjective רעה (ra'a), evil, ugly or erroneous.
🔼The name Tirathites in the Bible
The name Tirathites occurs only once in the Bible. It belongs to a family of scribes who lived at Jabez in Judah, together with the Shimeathites and Sucathites. They were Kenites descending from Hammath who had also sired the house of Rechab (1 Chronicles 2:55).
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Tirathites
It's not immediately clear where the name Tirathites might come. Neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor BDB Theological Dictionary has a go at this name, but both Gesenius and Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) confidently declare links between our name and the Aramaic noun תרע (tera'), meaning door:
The noun תער (tera') means gate or door. Noun תרע (tara') means porter or door keeper.
That would make the Tirathites, with some grammatical stretching, something like the Doors Keepers, or perhaps, as Alfred Jones offers Openings. Why a people called Doors Keepers or even Openings would reside in a village of scribes isn't made clear and might have remained a lasting mystery, if it hadn't been for the cluster of verbs of the ערר stock — particularly the form רעת, from which our name could certainly be sculpted, occurs frequently meaning "wickedness" (Genesis 6:5) or "pasturing" (Genesis 36:24):
Most broadly, the root רעע (ra'a') describes compartmentalization: to break some continuum apart into separated elements. Human minds are designed to be nodes of a much greater network of exchange, and must continuously interact to maintain a liquidity of wisdom — hence the noun רע (rea'), meaning friend or companion (and hence too the story of the Tower of Babel).
All wealth requires liquidity and that requires units of economy to go around. This explains why "evil" — רע, ra', evil — is not the opposite of "good" but instrumental to it: hence the perfect Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the heart of perfect Paradise. Despite popular misconceptions, in the Bible, all רע (rea') comes from God (Isaiah 45:7) and has a specific and wonderful function in any naturally evolving system.
Verb רעה (ra'a I) means to pasture or feed and the participle רעה (ra'a) means shepherd. Nouns רעי (re'i) and מרעה (mir'eh) mean pasture. Noun מרעית (mar'it) means pasturage.
Verb רעה (ra'a II) means to associate with. Nouns רע (rea'), רעה (re'eh) and מרע (merea') mean friend, associate or "neighbor". Nouns רעיה (ra'ya), רעה (re'a) and רעות (re'ut) describe a female attendant, mate or friend.
There may or not be an unused verb רעה (ra'a III) or else the following belong to the previous: noun רע (rea'), aim or purpose; nouns רעות (re'ut) and רעיון (ra'yon), longing or striving.
Verb רוע (rua') means to produce a sudden burst of sound. Nouns רע (rea') and תרועה (teru'a) describe a collective rallying cry, a war cry.
Again with some grammatical gymnastics, our name could be considered to describe Shepherds Of Waywards, or perhaps more astute: Correctors Of Spelling Errors. In a land where the singular deity was named with only vowels (namely יהו or YHW), writing was rightly considered a holy business. The invention of the alphabet allowed vast leaps forward in data retention, and thus correspondence and thus science and technology in general, and the importance of maintaining a spelling standard was without doubt duly recognized as a matter of life and death, as all matters of good and evil ultimately are.