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Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Ham

Ham Ham or Ham

The name that occurs in the English Bible as Ham is really two completely different Hebrew names, one pronounced Ham and the other Cham, with two completely different meanings. But since English readers are so used to the name Ham, Ham it is.

Ham 1 spelled Ham and properly pronounced as Cham, is the youngest son of Noah (Genesis 9:24). Because Mizraim (the Biblical name for Egypt) is one of the sons of Ham, the name Ham is sometimes used to indicate Egypt (Ps 105:23).

This name Ham is identical to the adjective Ham (ham) warm, hot, from the verb hamam (hamam) meaning be hot, warm, inflame. For the meaning of this name Ham, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names confidently renders Heat, Black, and goes off on the tried and commonly rejected ramble that connects heat with blackness and then with sin. Jones rather reluctantly admits that Ham was the grandfather of the world's first emperor Nimrod but quickly relativizes this feat by fantastically stating, 'no doubt [Ham] was the sole introducer of the worship of the sun,' and thundering, "even while the hand of God was bearing him up in safety in the ark of gopher wood, the leaven of his horrid idolatry was working in his breast."

What escapes the otherwise great scholar is that this version of the name Ham is also identical to Ham (ham), father-in-law, from the unused root hmh (hmh) of which the cognates mean protect, surround, contract by affinity (see the names Hamutal and Jahmai). The feminine noun Ham (hamot) means mother-in-law, and the feminine noun homa (homa) means wall in the sense of a protecting surrounding.

The last mentioned root in turn is similar to hmh (hamma), sun, heat; hmh (hema), heat, indignation, wrath, from root yaham (yaham), be hot. The bottom line is a connection to very strong emotion but not necessarily a negative one.

NOBS Study Bible Name List simply reads Hot, but in view of the above, a closer rendering would be Passion or Intensity.

Ham 2, which is spelled Ham and pronounced as Ham, denotes a once-mentioned town where Chedorlaomer defeated the Zuzim in the war of four against five kings (Genesis 14:5).

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives this Ham from the verb hama (hama), meaning cry aloud, mourn, rage, roar, etc. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes about this verb, "It is a strong word, emphasizing unrest, commotion, strong feeling, or noise," which at once creates a perhaps coincidental association with Ham 1.

NOBS Study Bible Name List incorrectly lists this Ham as one of the occurrences of Ham 1, for which it reads Hot. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names renders this version of the name Ham as Noisy.



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