Jeremiah meaning | Jeremiah etymology

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Jeremiah in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Jeremiah in the Bible

There are quite a few Jeremiah's mentioned in the Bible, but the best known, of course, is the prophet Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest. This Jeremiah lived in a Benjaminite village close to Jerusalem named Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1) where he also owned land (Jeremiah 32:7-15). For most of his ministry he was accompanied by Baruch the scribe, son of Neriah (Jeremiah 32:12), and most of Jeremiah's ministry concerned the invasion of Judah by Babylonian forces, the sacking of Jerusalem and the exile.

In the New Testament, Jeremiah is mentioned three times (spelled Ιερεμιας, Hieremias) but only by the evangelist Matthew (Matthew 2:17, 16:14 and 27:9).

Besides the famous prophet (whose name is also spelled ירמיהו — Jeremiahu), there are eight Jeremiah's mentioned in the Bible:

  • The maternal grandfather of king Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31).
  • A family head of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:23).
  • A Benjaminite mighty-man (1 Chronicles 12:4).
  • Two Gadite mighty-men (1 Chronicles 12:10 and 13).
  • A priest who signs the renewal of the covenant (Nehemiah 10:2).
  • A post-exilic priest (Nehemiah 12:1).
  • A Rechabite (Jeremiah 35:3).

Etymology and meaning of the name Jeremiah

The name Jeremiah consists of two parts, the final one being יה, the abbreviated form of יהוה, the Name of God (see YHWH). It's not exactly clear where the first part of the name Jeremiah may derive of, although BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List agree it's from the root group רמה (rama I & II), which in itself also carries some controversy:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

NOBSE Study Bible Name List favors relations with rama I and reads Yahweh Throws, and since this may be a bit odd, continuous to explain that it may be in the sense of laying a foundation, and translates the name Jeremiah with Yahweh Establishes, Appoints or Sends. This seems, however, a bit too creative. This root group is never used to indicate the fixing of something, but always quite the opposite.

Reading the name Jeremiah this way may seem to make him a Human Arrow On God's Bow, but in fact it will mean He'll Be Dumped By The Lord.

BDB Theological Dictionary tries to solve this problem by first of all go with their assumed root of loosening, and then referring to an Assyrian name or phrase meaning "whose womb is loosened." That way, proclaims BDB, the name Jeremiah may mean Yah Looseneth, and thus conveying the gladness of parents for conceiving (compare Genesis 29:31). Still, in Hebrew this verb is never used in relation to giving birth.

Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names abandons this troublesome root-group altogether but also seeks refuge in a word that has no Biblical precedent: the unused root ירם (yaram), to be elevated. Jones reports that this root has to do with the familiar Hebrew verb רום (rum), be high, lofty:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Hence Jones reads Elevated Of The Lord. However, the derivation רמה (rama) means height, high place. Using that particular word would render the name Jeremiah as My High Place Is The Lord.

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