🔼The name Beth-haram: Summary
- House Of The Lofty
- Mountain House
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb רום (rum), to be high.
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the noun הר (har), hill.
🔼The name Beth-haram in the Bible
The name Beth-haram appears once in the Bible, but it alternates with the name Beth-haran (בית הרן). It's the name of a town in a valley that became part of the territory allotted to the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:27). Prior to the conquest this area belonged to the Amorite kingdom of Sihon, king of Heshbon. In Numbers 32:36 this same town is called Beth-haran.
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-haram
The name Beth-haram consists of two elements. The first part is identical to the common Hebrew word בית (bayit) meaning house:
The noun בית (bayit) means house. It sometimes merely denotes a domestic building, but mostly it denotes the realm of authority of the house-father, or אב (ab). This ab is commonly the living alpha male of a household, but may very well be a founding ancestor (as in the familiar term the "house of Israel"). The אב (ab) may also be a deity, in which case the בית (bayit) is that which we know as a temple.
In the larger economy, a house interacts with other houses. These interactions are governed by the אב (ab), or "father" and executed by the בנים (benim), or "sons": those people living in the house, irrespective of any biological relation with the אב (ab). The "sons" combined add up to אם ('em), which means both "mother" and "tribe".
The second part of our name may come from the ubiquitous 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 letter ה (he) that precedes the word רום could then be regarded as the definite article, meaning the, or the particle of approach, meaning toward or onto.
But our name may also come from the evenly common noun הר (har) , meaning hill:
The noun הר (har) is the Bible's common word for mountain or hill. Intuition dictates that the root of the word for mountain probably has to do with being elevated, but that's not correct. In Hebrew thought, a mountain is not something that's high but rather a lot of something gathered. And so, a mountain became synonymous for a large but centralized group of people (Jeremiah 51:25), or even gods (Isaiah 14:13).
The obviously related verb הרה (hera) means to be or become pregnant. An association with the previous noun is obvious, although not because the stomach of a pregnant woman resembles a mountain. The Bible depicts nations as individual women even more than as mountains; the words אמה ('umma), meaning people and אם ('em), meaning mother are closely related. A pregnant woman is to her husband what a conceiving nation is to its deity.
For a meaning of the name Beth-haram, NOBSE Study Bible Name List appears to go with the noun הר (har) , meaning hill, and reads Mountain House. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names appears to go with the verb רום (rum), meaning to be high or lofty, and proposes House Of The Lofty. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret our name but notes that it still exists today, as Beit Harran, which is situated east of the Jordan, opposite Jericho.