🔼The name Aram-zobah: Summary
- Beautiful Elevation, Rise By War, Aram Of The Host
- From (1) the verb רום (rum), to be high, and (2) the noun צבא (saba'), division or army, or צבי (sabi'), beauty or honor.
🔼The name Aram-zobah in the Bible
The name Aram-zobah occurs three times in the Hebrew Bible, although English translations tend to read something like the Arameans of Zobah in 2 Samuel 10:6 and 10:8 (where our name is spelled with a final א, aleph, and should be transliterated as Aram-zoba), and the proper Aram-zobah (spelled with a final ה, he) in Psalm 60:1. This region near Damascus is mostly referred to as simply Zobah.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Aram-zobah
The name Aram-zobah 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 origin of the second part of our name is not clear. It's possibly a transliteration of an Arabic verb that means to depress or incline, and possibly it denoted an area that was somewhat lower than the rest of Aram.
But to a Hebrew our name must have seemed related to words like צבא (saba'), meaning division or army, or צבי (sabi'), meaning beauty or honor:
The verb צבא (saba') means to ally; to combine and integrate. It describes the formation of a distinct group, its inner economy and its interactions with neighboring groups. It's often used for military encounters but certainly not restricted to that use. Noun צבא (saba') describes a group that functions internally and externally as a distinct unit: a team, a league, a sodality, a collective, an army division.
Verb צבה (saba) means to swell up, but tends to describe the growing, getting better organized and more thoroughly engaging of the troop described by noun צבא (saba'). Noun צבה (sabeh) mostly describes a physical swelling. Noun צבי (sebi) mostly describes a swelling in the social sense: a becoming more honored or increasing in perceived beauty. In later parts of the Bible the verb צבה (saba) may be used to mean to wish. Noun צבו (sebu) means "desired thing."
Noun צבי (sebi) describes a gazelle, and is identical to the one meaning beauty but may also reflect the gazelle's herd behavior. Noun צביה (sebiya) also means gazelle.
Noun צב (sab) probably stems from an otherwise unused root צבב (sabab) and means cart. It's unclear how it fits in but perhaps as a thing upon which to pile things? Identical noun צב (sab) is thought to describe a kind of lizard (listed as unclean), possibly also because this animal tended to congregate.
For a meaning of the name Aram-zobah, Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) goes with the Arabic verb and reads the somewhat stretched Syria Of The Theatre. NOBSE Study Bible Name List omits Aram-zobah and doesn't submit a translation for Zobah. BDB Theological Dictionary lists Zobah under its own header and doesn't connect it to any existing Hebrew root.
But to a Hebrew audience, the name Aram-zobah may have meant Aram Of War or Beautiful Aram.