🔼The name Adoniram: Summary
- My Lord Is Exalted, Lord Of Height
- From (1) the noun אדן (adon), lord or sir, and (2) the verb רום (rum), to be high.
🔼The name Adoniram in the Bible
There's only one Adoniram in the Bible but there's something noteworthy curious about him, or rather his name. Adoniram, son of Abda, is the commander of the men subject to forced labor during the time of king Solomon (1 Kings 4:6, 5:14). This ties him directly to the building of the temple because even though the temple was so holy that it was to be built without making noise (without using proper tools — 1 Kings 6:7), it was earthly enough to necessitate the abuse of myriads of slaves. Many of these slaves were levied from the Israelite households that owned them (1 Kings 5:13), but a great many more were drawn from the indigenous peoples of Canaan (9:20-22).
What is curious about this Adoniram is that when we are introduced to him — in 2 Samuel 20:24, when he's still working for David — he's called אדרם (Adoram). The difference between Adoram and Adoniram is so large that commentators speak of a corrupted contraction; they really mean different things. The obvious solution is to propose that Adoram the slave driver who worked for David is not the same as Adoniram the slave driver who worked for Solomon.
However, there's a third slave driver, and he works for king Rehoboam, the son of Solomon (2 Chronicles 10:18). Young Rehoboam is not very diplomatic and in his early reign he wildly promises to wield the whip much fiercer than his father ever did — namely via his slave driver, we may assume. This causes the northern tribes to follow the rebel Jeroboam in secession, and to counteract this, Rehoboam sends in slave driver number three, called הדורם (Hadoram). The only difference between the names Hadoram and Adoram is that the letter aleph of Adoram is now the he of Hadoram. Alternation between the letters א (aleph) and the letter ה (he) is common enough for Adoram and Hadoram to be the same person. But certainty about this is too tall an order. Whoever he is, when Hadoram arrives on the scene, the tribes successively stone him to death and thus terminate an either very short or very long career.
Adoniram, Adoram and Hadoram may be the same person. Solomon reigned for forty years (1 Kings 11:42), so it's possible that Adoram started as a young man in service of David, and came to his end shortly after Solomon's death, while his name shape-shifted a bit, or rather a lot. But it's also possible that the three are different men. Only of Adoniram we know his father's name.
BDB Theological Dictionary rules them all the same person, and the confusion due to scribal error and textual corruption. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) doesn't even treat Adoram separately and refers without further note to Adoniram, but he does treat Hadoram, because that name is shared with two other men. NIV doesn't print the other two names and speaks only of Adoniram. NAS properly reads Adoram in 2 Samuel and Hadoram in 2 Chronicles and Adoniram in 1 Kings.
🔼Etymology of the name Adoniram
The name Adoniram consists of two elements. The first part of the name comes from the familiar Hebrew word אדן (adon), roughly meaning lord:
The verb אדן ('dn) means to provide support for a piece of superstructure: to be a base for something big to stand or rotate upon. The noun אדן ('eden) refers to the foundation, base or pedestal of pillars or panels and such, and this word features lavishly in the description of the tabernacle. The tabernacle, of course, was a prototype of the temple, which in turn became embodied by God's living human congregation, and the bases and foundations of that living temple became personified by the human foundation known as אדון ('adon) or אדן ('adon), roughly translatable with lord, sir or mister.
The word adon post-fixed by the letter י creates a possessive form: אדני (adoni), meaning my lord, or lord of, depending on the context.
The second part of the name Adoniram comes from the root רום (rum), meaning to be high:
The verb רום (rum) means to be high or high up in either a physical, social or even attitudinal sense, and may also refer to the apex in a natural process: the being ripe and ready-for-harvest of fruits. Subsequently, our verb may imply a state beyond ripe (higher than ripe, overripe), which thus refers to rotting and being maggot riddled. This means that to the ancients, higher did not simply mean better, and an arrogant political status that was higher than it should be equaled rot and worms (Acts 12:23).
Derived nouns, such as רום (rum) and related forms such as רמה (rama), describe height or pride. Noun רמות (ramut) describes some high thing. The noun ארמון ('armon) refers to a society's apex: a citadel or palace. The noun ראם (re'em) describes the wild ox, which was named possibly for the same reason why we moderns call a rising market a "bull" market. The similar verb ראם (ra'am) means to rise.
The important noun רמון (rimmon) means pomegranate and the pomegranate became the symbol for harvest-ready fruit (see our full dictionary article for more on this). Overripe items might suffer the noun רמה (rimma), worm or maggot, or the verb רמם (ramam), to be wormy.
For a meaning of the name Adoniram, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and BDB Theological Dictionary both read My Lord Is Exalted. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Lord Of Height.