🔼The name Zoar: Summary
- Smallness, Little
- From the verb צער (sa'ar), to be or become small or insignificant.
🔼The name Zoar in the Bible
The name Zoar belongs to a city which was situated on the southern extremity of the Salt Sea, and provides pretty much the high-water mark of the destruction of the cities of the plain. When the angels brought Lot and his family out of Sodom, they ordered them to flee to the mountains. For some obscure reason, Lot objected to the mountain plan and opted for a nearby village, which was small (מצער, mis'ar, see below) and that was significant, also for an obscure reason. The angels allowed Lot to go to the small town, and that's why it was called Zoar (Genesis 19:22).
We hear first of Zoar when Lot elected to live in the Jordan valley, which, prior to the destruction, was like the garden of YHWH, like Egypt coming to Zoar (Genesis 13:10). But before it came to be known as Zoar, it was called Bela, and at some point, its suspiciously unnamed king joined a coalition of five kings and went to war with four Assyrian kings (Genesis 14:2, 14:8). The five lost from the four, and what was left of Bela became Lot's Zoar. Lot didn't stay in Zoar, because for yet another obscure reason he left and took his daughters to the mountains anyway (Genesis 19:30).
Zoar still existed at the time of the invasion of Canaan. Right before Moses died, the Lord allowed him a look at the promised land from the top of Mount Nebo (also known as Pisgah or Abarim) and viewed the Promised Land as far as Zoar (Deuteronomy 34:3)
Much later, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the periods of great international upheaval and spoke of fugitives from Moab as far as Zoar (Isaiah 15:5), and likewise Jeremiah heard outcries from as far as Zoar (Jeremiah 48:34).
The name Zoar is spelled צוער in Genesis 19:22 and 19:30 and צער everywhere else.
🔼Etymology of the name Zoar
The name Zoar comes from the verb צער (sa'ar), meaning to be or become insignificant or small:
The verb צער (sa'ar) means to be or become small or insignificant. Adjective צעיר (sa'ir) may mean small or young, younger, youngest. Noun צעירה (se'ira) means youth, young or subservient person. Noun מצער (mis'ar) refers to any place or agent of smallness; a small town, one's humble beginnings, a few men, a little while.
For a meaning of the name Zoar, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Little. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Smallness, Little. And BDB Theological Dictionary proposes Insignificance.