🔼The name Chemosh: Summary
- As If He Saves
- As If He Moves, As If He Feels
- From (1) כ (ke), as if, and (2) the verb ישע (yasha'), to save.
- From (1) כ (ke), as if, and (2) the verb מוש (mush), to be ambulant or feel.
🔼The name Chemosh in the Bible
This "abomination of Moab" was introduced to Israel by none other than king Solomon, who graced the creature with a high place on a mountain close to Jerusalem, and adjacent one dedicated to Moloch of Ammon (1 Kings 11:7). When YHWH assigned Jeroboam the northern portion of the kingdom, he had the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite tell him that Solomon had forfeited it also because of his flirting with Chemosh (1 Kings 11:33).
It wasn't until the reforms of king Josiah that these and other pagan shrines that Solomon built were removed from Judah (2 Kings 23:13). In Moab, however, Chemosh was going strong until the Babylonian invasion, when the Moabites too were deported, as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:7, 48:13 and 48:46; only in 48:7 is this name spelled כמיש).
🔼Etymology of the name Chemosh
It's a mystery where the name Chemosh comes from. It's obviously Semitic but in Hebrew there is no triliteral root כמש (kms), as far as we know. According to recovered Moabite texts, the father of king Mesha (מישע) of Moab was called Chemoshmelek (כמשמלך, an extra-biblical name comparable in form to Biblical names like Elimelech and Abimelech), which seems to suggest that Chemosh (כמוש) may be Che-mesha, formed from the prefix כ (ke):
כ כי כה
The prefix כ (ke) means "as if" or "like." The particle כי (ki) means "in that," both in the sense of "because" and "when." The adverb כה (koh) means "thus."
And the verb ישע (yasha') meaning to save:
The verb ישע (yasha') means to be unrestricted and thus to be free and thus to be saved (from restriction, from oppression and thus from ultimate demise). A doer of this verb is a savior. Nouns ישועה (yeshua), ישע (yesha') and תשועה (teshua) mean salvation. Adjective שוע (shoa') means (financially) independent, freed in an economic sense.
Verb שוע (shawa') means to cry out (for salvation). Nouns שוע (shua'), שוע (shoa') and שועה (shawa) mean a cry (for salvation).
It's highly likely that the Hebrew authors who wrote down this name knew very well what it was supposed to mean in Moabite, but as they copied it from Moabite into Hebrew, it came to mean something else (something similar would occur with, say, the German word schlimm, meaning bad or terrible, which transliterated into Dutch would be slim, meaning clever or smart, which in English means slender or thin). As is, the name Chemosh in Hebrew looks like it consists of כ (ke) plus an expression of the verb מוש (mush):
The verb משש (mashash) means to feel; to sense or search for tactilely. This verb has no derivatives but does show up in two alternate forms, namely מוש (mush) and מיש (mish).
An assumed whole other verb מוש (mush) or מיש (mish) means to depart or remove, and appears most often in the negative, when something is typically not ambulant but stays where it's at.
Perhaps these two verbs relate in the sweeping or scanning motion that usually accompanies tactile reconnaissance. This same motion could be applied to describe a being footloose or untethered.
It's ultimately unknown what the name Chemosh meant to the Moabites, but to the Hebrew authors it may originally have sounded like As If He Saves, but made to sound like it meant As If He Feels or As If He Moves.