🔼The name Aramean: Summary
- Of The Elevation, Highly
- From the verb רום (rum), to be high.
🔼The name Aramean in the Bible
The Arameans were a people that lived in the vicinity of the territory of Israel, but judging from the many different centers that carry names derived from the name Aram (Paddan-aram, Aram-maacah, Aram-zobah), the Arameans were not a centralized people. In general, Arameans were the people who spoke Aramaic (ארמית, a word which may also refer to a lady Aramean, normally known as ארמיה as in 1 Chronicles 7:14) of which Syriac is a dialect — a Semitic language that is closely related to Hebrew and which grew to be the standard language of the Persian empire.
Hebrew remained a different language all throughout the Biblical period (Genesis 31:47-48, 2 Kings 18:26), but at the time of the return from the exile so few people still understood Hebrew that the prophet Ezra initiated the Rabbinic period by instating a group of explainers who interpreted the Hebrew texts to an Aramaic-speaking audience (Nehemiah 8:8). At some point the ancient Hebrew Scriptures were transcribed into Aramaic script. In fact, the typical block-script we now call Hebrew isn't Hebrew but Aramaic. Some Bible writers even freely incorporated Aramaic texts into their books: parts of Jeremiah, Ezra and Daniel are in Aramaic. And when someone in the New Testament quoted something from the Old Testament, it was in Aramaic rather than in Hebrew (Mark 5:34, 5:41).
The relationship between the Arameans and Israel is made obvious all over the Bible. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, and Rachel and Leah, the two wives of Jacob and two of the four arch-mothers of Israel, were sister and daughters of Laban the Aramean, living in Paddan-aram (Genesis 25:20). Deuteronomy 26:5 even shows that the Israelites commonly understood that they were of Aramean descent.
🔼Etymology of the name Aramean
The ethnonym Aramean obviously comes from the name Aram, which in turn comes from the Hebrew verb רום (rum), meaning to be high or lofty:
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 ethnonym Aramean means He Of The Elevation.