🔼The name Shammah in the Bible
The name Shammah is quite popular in the Bible. There appear to be five different individuals with that name, but the following list may overlap somewhat as the last four members are contemporaries:
- A son of Reuel, the son of Esau the brother of Jacob, and his cousin Basemath the daughter of Ishmael, son of Abraham (Genesis 36:13).
- The third son of Jesse of Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:9). He was present in the valley of Elah when his youngest brother David killed the giant Goliath of Gath (2 Samuel 17:13). This man is mostly known as Shimea or variations thereof.
- Shammah the Harodite; one of the thirty lesser mighty-men (2 Samuel 23:25). The Chronicler calls this man Shammoth the Harorite (1 Chronicles 11:27)
Note that there are also two men named שמא (Shamma) in the Bible; Shamma is probably a variant spelling of Shammah.
🔼Etymology of the name Shammah
If the name Shammah is not considered a shortened form of the name Shimea (שמעה), it could be regarded as drawn from the verb שמם (shamem), meaning to be desolate or appalled. Our name is identical to the feminine noun שמה (shamma), meaning waste:
The name Shammah means Waste or rather Appalling Desolation, and is an example of a name that probably didn't have the function of reflecting qualities of the bearer but rather to commemorate a certain event that had nothing to do with the bearer, and at best coincided with his birth.
Neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) picks up on that and in a desperate attempt to make something positive out of this name (probably assuming it was conferred by loving parents), both read Astonishment as its meaning. BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name but does list it under the root שמם.