🔼The name Aram-naharaim: Summary
- Highland Between Two Rivers, Elevation Of Two Lights
- From (1) the verb רום (rum), to be high, and (2) the verb נהר (nahar), to flow or shine.
🔼The name Aram-naharaim in the Bible
There is only once place with the name Aram-naharaim in the Bible (see the subtitle of Psalm 60:1). The Hebrew Bible mentions Aram-naharaim five times but most English translations follow the Septuagint and read Mesopotamia for the other four.
The wives of Isaac and Jacob came from Aram-naharaim (Genesis 24:10). The city of Pethor, where Balaam, or at least his father Beor, came from, was in Aram-naharaim (Deuteronomy 23:4), although this may be another place called such (see our article on the name Pethor).
And when Cushan-rishathaim, the king of Aram-naharaim took sway over Israel and held it for eight years, YHWH raised up a savior: Othniel, the nephew of Caleb, who defeated Cushan-rishathaim and became the first judge of Israel (Judges 3:8). Much later, when the Ammonites insulted king David, they hired a regiment of cavalry from Aram-naharaim to fight him (1 Chronicles 19:6).
🔼Etymology of the name Aram-naharaim
The name Aram-naharaim obviously consists of two elements. The first part is the same as the name Aram, the Hebrew name for Syria, which derives of the verb רום (rum), meaning to rise up, or 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, 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.
The second part of our name is a dual form of a noun that comes from the verb נהר (nahar), meaning to flow or shine:
The verb נהר (nahar) means to flow or stream and is used for both water and light (which in turn demonstrates that the ancients had Relativity Theory; see our expanded article for more). Noun נהר (nahar) means river or stream. Noun נהרה (nahara) means light or daylight and מנהרה (minhara) "place of nahara". Nouns נר (ner) and ניר (nir) mean lamp, and nouns מנורה (menorah) and מנרה (menorah) mean lampstand.
The Septuagint translates the name Aram-naharaim with Mesopotamia (which is mesos + potamos, meaning Between Rivers), and that's what the Hebrew name means: Aram Of Two Rivers, or Height Of Two Rivers. NOBSE Study Bible Name List omits this name but Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Syria Of The Two Rivers.