🔼The name Beth-jeshimoth: Summary
- House Of The Wastes, Desert House
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb ישם (yasham), to be desolate.
🔼The name Beth-jeshimoth in the Bible
The name Beth-jeshimoth belongs to a city in Moab, close to and east of the southern end of the river Jordan, near where Israel camped right before marching into Canaan (Numbers 33:49, spelled בית הישמת). Prior to the campaign, Beth-jeshimoth was part of the empire of king Sihon of the Amorites (Joshua 12:3 and onward spelled בית הישמות), and after his defeat it came to be situated in the territory allotted to the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 13:20).
Centuries later, the tribe of Reuben was deported to Assyria and Beth-jeshimoth became known again as a Moabitic city. Via the prophet Ezekiel, YHWH pronounced judgment on Moab, and declared that he would deprive Moab of its glory, namely the cities on its frontiers, including Beth-jeshimoth (Ezekiel 25:9, spelled בית הישימת).
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-jeshimoth
The name Beth-jeshimoth 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 comes from the verb ישם (yasham), meaning to be desolate:
The verb שמם (shamem) means to be desolate, devastated or abandoned. It usually describes a literal empty place but may also be used to describe a mental state, in which case it refers to being appalled.
Adjective שמם (shamem) means devastated or deserted. Nouns שממה (shemama), שמה (shamma), שממון (shimmamon) and משמה (meshamma) denote various forms and degrees of waste, devastation, horror or appalment.
Verb ישם (yasham) is a by-form of the previous and means the same, albeit with an apparent emphasis on dry and arid lands. Noun ישימון (yeshimon, or variants) refers to desolate regions and mostly describes deserts. Noun ישימה (yeshima) describes the mental equivalent (whatever that might be).
Noun שמים (shamayim) means heavens. It's a plural form of a non-existing singular word שמי (shamay), coming from an assumed root שמה (shama). Whether or not this word is formally related to the above, to the ancients the heavens were clearly known as a vast emptiness that filled the observer with existential horror.
Equally striking is the noun שם (shem), which means name or renown. This suggests that the ancients saw someone's empty head as the same howling infinite as empty space, and all formal knowledge of the whole of creation that a person might accrue equal to this person's name.
For a meaning of the name Beth-jeshimoth, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads House Of The Wastes, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes House Of the Deserts, and BDB Theological Dictionary has Place Of The Desert.