🔼The name Zarethan: Summary
- Fortress, They Vex, Place Of Oppression
- Possibly from the verb צרר (sarar II) or צור (sur III), to vex or be an adversary.
🔼The name Zarethan in the Bible
The name Zarethan (or Zarthan as some translations have it) belongs to a village on the river Jordan and close to a place called Adam (Joshua 3:16). It's the site of Israel's miraculous crossing of the Jordan, when upon touch of the Ark of the Covenant, the waters upstream heaped up at Adam, near Zarethan, and the waters downstream flowed away, leaving a dry patch for the people to cross.
After the conquest of Canaan, Zarethan became situated in the territory allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. We hear again from this town when Baana, son of Ahilud, became one of king Solomon's twelve officials in "Taanach and Megiddo and all Beth-shean, which is beside Zarethan" (1 Kings 4:12).
This was a pretty important post because much of the bronze utensils that Hiram made for Solomon's temple were cast in the plain of the Jordan, "in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan" (1 Kings 7:46). The Chronicler reports of the same but tells of Huram-abi who did his metallurgy between Succoth and Zeredah (1 Chronicles 4:16-17).
🔼Etymology of the name Zarethan
It's not overly obvious where the name Zarethan may come from, but many scholars readily assume that Zarethan is the same as Zererath (צררת) mentioned in Judges 7:22. If that is true, but even if isn't, the name Zarethan may very well be derived from any of the following, but particularly any of the words spelled צרה:
- Verb צור (sur I) probably means to lean or incline. Noun צואר (sawwa'r) means neck and צורון (sawwaron) means necklace.
- Verb צור (sur II) means to confine, secure or besiege. Noun מצור (masor) means siege and מצורה (mesura) means stronghold. This verb relates to verb צרר (sarar I).
- Verb צור (sur III) means to be an adversary. It relates to צרר (sarar II).
- Verb צור (sur IV) means to form or fashion. Noun צורה (sura) means form and noun ציר (sir) means image. This verb relates to יצר (yasar).
- Verb צור (sur V) probably relates to verb צרר (sarar III) and probably means to be sharp. The important noun צור (sur) means rock, and is equivalent to the Greek noun πετρα (petra), from which comes the name Peter.
- Verb צרר (sarar I) means to bind and relates to צור (sur II). Adjective צר (sar) means narrow. Nouns צר (sar) and צרה (sara) mean distress and yield denominative verb צרה (sara), meaning to suffer distress. Noun צרור (seror) means bundle or parcel. Noun מצר (mesar) means distress.
- Verb צרר (sarar II) means to show hostility and relates to verb צור (sur III). Noun צר (sar) means adversary. Noun צרה (sara) means vexer or rival-wife. Denominative verb צרר (sarar) means to create a rival wife.
- Verb צרר (sarar III) probably means to be sharp and relates to צור (sur V). Nouns צר (sar), צר (sor) and צרור (seror) mean flint or pebble.
Verb יצר (yasar) means to fashion or form and relates to צור (sur IV). Noun יצר (yeser) denotes that what is formed, and noun יצרים (yesurim) means forms or members.
Verb צרה (srh) probably describes the bleeding of an odoriferous tree. Noun צרי (sari) denotes a kind of costly balsam.
In names that are older than the Hebrew the Bible was written in, the letter ה often alternates with the letter ת, and the final נ (nun) may be attached to a word to create a diminutive form, or a "place of" kind of word (this is usually done by adding ון, see the list of ון-names in the 'browse by form' menu). The step from the verb צרה (sara) to the form צרתן (saretan) might also be achieved by engaging the feminine plural form.
For a meaning of the name Zarethan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Cooling but NOBSE appears to make a string of errors. It assumes that Zeredah and Zarethan are the same place, but then sticks the meaning of the name Zeredah to Zarethan, and translates Zeredah with The Fortress, possibly from the verb צור (sur II).
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names goes with צר, meaning narrow, and assumes that the final nun comes from אן, a particle of inquisition that asks "where?" and translates our name with Narrowness Of Dwelling Place (and generously admits that the etymology is uncertain).
BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret the name Zarethan and lists it under צרר III (but this probably because that's where this name would go alphabetically).
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that our name probably stems from a verb that has to do with fortifications, laying siege or being an adversary in some way or form. Our name probably means They Vex or Place Of Oppression or even Place Of Stones.