🔼The name Zion: Summary
- Dry Place, Sign Post, Tradition
- From the noun ציון (sayon), dry place or sign post, from the verb צוה (sawa), to be dry or to command.
- From an Arabic verb that means to defend.
🔼The name Zion in the Bible
Zion was originally a Jebusite stronghold located in or near Jerusalem or is equal to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:7). King David captured this stronghold and it was renamed City Of David. David set up the tabernacle there and Solomon retrieved it from there to place the Ark and utensils in the temple.
The name Zion appears 7 times in the New Testament; see full New Testament concordance.
🔼Etymology of the name Zion
Because Zion was originally not Israeli, the name Zion comes to us possibly from a language other than Hebrew. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament mentions an Arabic root s-w-n, meaning to protect or defend, which may give Zion the meaning of fortress. Others (says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) suggest derivation from a root saha, be bald.
However, the ancient scribes allowed themselves considerable creative freedom in transliterating foreign names and they chose to spell the name Zion identical to the Hebrew word ציון (sayon) either meaning place of dryness or sign post:
צוה ציה צי
Across several separate roots, the Bible sports an obvious connection between dry land to stand on and an established wisdom tradition to stand on. Adversely, new applications of wisdom or even new insights require new rain, which is why the word for teacher is the same as that for rain: מורה (moreh).
Verb צוה (sawa) either means to command or be dry. Noun ציון (siyun) either means signpost or dry place. Noun מצוה (miswa) means commandment but also applies to the full code of the law. Noun ציון (sayon) means dryness or parched land, and also points toward an time-honored wisdom tradition that has stopped growing because of an extended drought.
Noun צו (saw) means command. Noun צי (si) means either ship or refers to a kind of desert creature.
The power of ships, of course, is that they keep going around on their same trade routes and do everything the same each time. A desert dweller is of course also a creature that leans wholly on the "rocks" of a massively stagnant intellectual ecosystem, where very little life sprouts and grows (and please note that radically rejecting rocks won't bring back rains).
For a meaning of the name Zion, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Very Dry and NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with the Arabic cognate mentioned above, and reads Fortress.
Here at Abarim Publications we're guessing that Zion is the stronghold of Tradition — not so much a religious tradition but rather the wisdom tradition that originated in the Stone Age, and which gave us concrete, genetically engineered chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, grain, highly sophisticated buildings such as the Giza pyramids and Stonehenge, and vastly complex information technology such as script and books.
Since that Global Renaissance that started in the Stone Age and proliferated on until pretty much the collapse of the Bronze Age, humanity entered into a fierce dry spell during which intellectual life contracted and found its bottom in the sizzling desert of the Roman Empire. It was in that desert that John and Jesus showed up, and they again had nothing to do with any religion.