🔼The name Aram: Summary
- Elevated, Citadel
- From the verb רום (rum), to be high.
🔼The name Aram in the Bible
There are one country and several men named Aram in the Bible. The country named Aram in the Bible is now called Syria, which lies directly to the north of Israel and east of present day Lebanon, and which capital was and still is Damascus. Aram-slash-Syria is not to be confused with Assyria, which was a country and later an empire to the far north-east of Israel; present day Iraq. In the wake of the Bronze Age Collapse (see our article on the name Hellas), the Arameans migrated from Mesopotamia, south to modern Syria, which explains the similarity of the names of these two regions. Assyria's capital was Nineveh, of which today only ruins remain.
The Greeks decided to call Aram Syria (Συρια; Acts 15:41, Galatians 1:21), and rendered the same name to Assyria, which caused considerable confusion. But confusion already abounded since the Semitic speaking peoples referred to regions in Assyria with names that contained Aram; see for instance Paddan-aram and Aram-naharaim. Today it's generally accepted that the names Syria and Assyria come from the same Semitic root (see below).
In Roman times, Syria became a Roman district just north of Israel. That's why Matthew could write that news about Jesus went out into all Syria (Matthew 4:24). Altogether, the name Aram or Syria occurs 12 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
Other Biblical Arams are:
- A son of Shem, who was the first-born son of Noah (Genesis 10:22). His progeny became the Arameans who peopled the country of Aram.
- A son of Kemuel, who was a son of Nahor with Milcah, the brother and niece of Abraham (Genesis 22:21).
- A son of Shemer, son of Heber, son of Beriah, son of Asher, the eighth son of Jacob and the second of Zilpah (1 Chronicles 7:34).
- A district in Gilead (1 Chronicles 2:23).
- A region in Mesopotamia (see Paddan-aram).
- Finally, the King James and the Darby translations list an Aram (Αραμ) in the genealogy of Christ, but this Greek Aram is due to an odd transliteration of the Hebrew name Ram (רם). Modern English versions of the Bible speak of Ram (Matthew 1:3, Luke 3:33).
🔼Etymology of the name Aram
The name Aram comes probably from the common Hebrew verb רום (rum) meaning to be high, rise up:
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 noun ארמון ('armon), meaning citadel, is thought to derive from a root ארם ('rm), which , according to BDB Theological Dictionary, is probably a by-form of the Hebrew verb רום (rum) and which is identical to our name Aram. That means that the name Aram is possibly derived from the root that also gave us the word for citadel. The name Aram, in fact, may derive from the idea of a global capital which John the Revelator calls the New Jerusalem.
For a meaning of the name Aram, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads High, Elevated. NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Elevated.