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Meaning and etymology of the name Jerusalem

Jerusalem Jerusalem

There is no town as Biblical as Jerusalem, but it was neither built nor named by Hebrews. Remnants of a Canaanite town called Salem date back to the early bronze age, and the first Biblical mentioning of this place is in Genesis 14:18, where Abraham and Melchizedek meet. The name Jerusalem occurs first in Joshua 10:1 and the city of Jerusalem was conquered, sacked and apparently abandoned by Israel (Judges 1:8). Four hundred years later David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, annexed it and made it his capital (2 Samuel 5:6).

By the time the Hebrews had a say in it, the name Jerusalem had been long established. Most likely, the original name, that sounded something like Urusalimum or Ursalimmu, meant Foundation Of Shalem, the latter being a known Ugaritic god. The reason why the Hebrews didn't rename the city when they had the chance may be because its name was easily transliterated into something very striking in Hebrew.

Without a doubt the second and dominant part of the name reminded (then and now) of the word shalom (shalom), peace. The root of this word, shalem (shalem), denotes completeness, wholeness and soundness. In this sense the name Jerusalem is related to some other famous names from the David saga: Solomon and Absalom.

The first part of the name Jerusalem may likely have reminded a Hebrew audience of the verb yara (yara), throw, cast or shoot. This verb is used when arrows are shot, stones are thrown or stacked and even when lots are cast. Other derivations of this same verb is yoreh (yoreh), early rain, and moreh (moreh b, c), meaning both early rain and teacher. Basically, the verb and its nouns have to do with many little impulses that cause a larger and unified event, or serve to obtain a larger and unified objective. Most striking, however, is the derivation Torah (tora), which is the word Torah, or Law.

Perhaps the name Jerusalem was never changed, but only Hebraized, because it seems to mean Rain Of Peace.
Jerusalem was to be the radiating heart of a world of completeness and wholeness. It seems that history supplied her with a most suiting name.

For a meaning of the name Jerusalem, NOBS Study Bible Name List reads Possession Of Peace. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Foundation Of Peace.

Other names that derive from the root shalem are: Absalom, Abishalom, Meshullam, Meshillemoth, Meshelemiah, Meshullemeth, Salome, Shallum, Shallun, Shalman, Shalmaneser, Shelemiah, Shelomi, Shelomith, Shelomoth, Shelumiel, Shillem, Shillemites, Sholomoh, Shulammite, Solomon.



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