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Meaning and etymology of the name Jeremiah

Jeremiah Jeremiah

Besides the famous prophet and author of the Book of Jeremiah (whose name is also spelled Jeremiah), 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), and a Rechabite (Jeremiah 35:3).

The name Jeremiah consists of two parts, the final one being yah, the abbreviated form of YHWH, 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 NOBS Study Bible Name List agree it's from the root group rama (rama I & II), which in itself also carries some controversy.

The verb rama (rama) means to throw or shoot, as use in Exodus 15:1 (horse and rider into the sea) and Jeremiah 4:29 (shooters of the bow). NOBS Study Bible Name List favors this possibility 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.

The identical root rama (rama II) is sometimes split in two. Hence BDB Theological Dictionary lists three different roots rama, yet HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament rejects this and groups all following meanings under the same header. But whatever the philologically deliberations may entail, there are obviously two major groups of meanings contained in this second root:

rama (rama II) means to beguile, deceive, mislead. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament lists the noun remiya (remiya), slackening, deceit, under this root, but BDB Theological Dictionary supposes the existence of an unused root rama (rama BDB Theological Dictionary III), meaning to loosen.

The controversy surrounding this root (or these roots) illustrates marvelously the evolution of theological thought and linguistic theory through the centuries. Classic scholars marked one root that covered to deceive and to loosen, but more recent scholars thought there were two different roots (which means two different ideas accidentally named the same, like our words trunk and trunk), and most recent scholar are back to one root. The solution lies in the notion that in the Bible the ideas of deception and loosening are similar, simply because exercising truth leads to stronger relationships. Where we differentiate between deceit and looseness, the Bible doesn't. A group that is of one mind (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 4:3-6) can not be loose, can not practice deceit, and can not be united by anything other than truth (Psalm 15:2, Proverbs 12:19). And since truth sets free (John 8:32) we are at once struck by the difference between the Bible's definitions of freedom and looseness. An arrow that is shot away is by no means free.

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, the name Jeremiah may convey 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 altogether but also seeks refuge in a word that has no Biblical precedent: the unused root yaram (yaram), to be elevated. Jones reports that this root has to do with the familiar Hebrew verb rum (rum), be high, lofty; rise up, and reads Elevated Of The Lord. Derivation rama (rama) means height, high place. Using that particular word would render the name Jeremiah as My High Place Is The Lord.

Other names derived of the verb rum are Abram, Abiram, Adoniram, Ahiram, Amram, Aram, Armageddon, Armoni, Hadoram, Hiram, Jarmuth, Jehoram, Jeremai, Jeremoth, Jerimoth, Joram, Paddam-aram, Reumah, Rumah, Ram, Ramah, Ramath, Ramathite, Ramath-lehi, Ramoth, Ramathaim-zophim and Romamti-ezer.



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