🔼The word alamoth: Summary
- A Bunch Of Giggling Girls
- From the verb עלם ('alam), to be concealed, to be youthful.
🔼The word alamoth in the Bible
The term alamoth occurs only twice in the Bible. It's a musical term that's used juxtaposed with sheminith in 1 Chronicles 15:20-21, which makes it clear that both have to do with the way harps and lyres (small harps) were tuned or played. Our word alamoth also occurs in the header of Psalm 46:1.
🔼Etymology of the word alamoth
The term comes from the verb עלם ('alam), which means to be hidden but poised to burst forth:
The verb עלם ('alam) means to be hidden or concealed and noun תעלמה (ta'alumma) describes a hidden thing, but all this with an emphasis on a potential coming out rather than a hiding for, say, safety or mysteriousness.
Noun עלם ('elem) describes a young man, עלמה ('alma) a young woman, and עלומים ('alumim) youth(s) in general, which appears to appeal to the still "hidden" potential of youth. Likewise the noun עולם (olam), which means forever or everlasting, appears to refer to the potential of any present situation, which may realize when time is unlimited.
The meaning of the word alamoth is lost to us moderns. Some commentators interpret it as a plural of the noun עלמה ('alma), meaning young woman. The Young translation even reads "For the Virgins" in the header of Psalm 46, and a rather intriguing "with psalteries besides virgins" in 1 Chronicles 15:20.
Likewise NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes a translation of Virgins, and confidently explains that this musical term "probably" indicated a women's choir. This is more probably not correct since all musicians, including singers, were dudes (1 Chronicles 9:33, 15:16).
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't translate our term but does list it under root עלם ('lm II), to be youthful, and explains that this root may actually mean to be strong or sexually mature.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that our term alamoth describes the sound coming from a myriad of lyres that sound like a myriad of girls giggling: very happy, full of life and governed merely by the mesmerizing chaos of unrestricted harmony.
In the title of Psalm 9:1 occurs the strikingly similar term על מות, which consists of the words על ('al), meaning up, upon, according to or toward, and מות (mawet), meaning death. The word that follows is לבן, which might be the verb לבן, laban, meaning to be white or to bake bricks, it might be a name like Laban, and it even may consist of the prefix ל (le), which means onto or toward, and the noun בן (ben), meaning son.
In short: the term על מות לבן is fantastically obscure and may mean "on Mud-Labben" [NAS], "To the tune of 'The Death of the Son'" [NIV], "On the Death of Labben" [Young] and so on. It may even mean "True Sonship Comes From Being Focused On One's Death," which of course rings after the death-of-self theme of the New Testament (John 12:24, Galatians 5:24).