🔼The name Elam: Summary
- From the verb עלם ('alam), to be hidden.
🔼The name Elam in the Bible
The name Elam is assigned to one or two regions, and a handful of men:
- A region named Elam is first mentioned in the War of Four Against Five Kings, when Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, enters into an alliance with kings Amraphel, Arioch and Tidal to battle an alliance of five Canaanite kings (Genesis 14:1). This Mesopotamian Elam is probably not the same as the next Elam:
- The Persian province named Elam, or Elymais, mentioned by the prophets Jeremiah (49:36, spelled both עילם and עולם) and Isaiah (21:2). The author of Acts seems to distinguish between Elamites (Ελαμιτης) and residents of Mesopotamia (Acts 2:9), and Ezra equates the Elamites with the men of Susa (a Persian city — Ezra 4:9).
- The first mentioned person named Elam is a son of Shem, son of Noah. It's assumed that the Biblical narrative identifies this Elam as the ancestor of the Persians.
- A gatekeeping Korahite (1 Chronicles 26:3).
- A Benjaminite (1 Chronicles 8:24).
- An Elam among the signers of the covenant (Nehemiah 10:14).
- Two heads of families that came back from exile, both named Elam (Ezra 2:7 and 2:31). One of these is possibly the same as the next:
- The father of Shecaniah, son of Jehiel, who confessed to Ezra that Israel's marriage to local women was contrary to the stipulations of YHWH (Ezra 10:2; spelled עולם).
- A priest present at the dedication of the Jerusalem wall (Nehemiah 12:42).
🔼Etymology of the name Elam
The name Elam comes from the Hebrew verb עלם ('alam) and can be derived of any of the following:
The verb עלם ('alam) means to be hidden or concealed and noun תעלמה (ta'alumma) describes a hidden thing, but all this with an emphasis on a potential coming out rather than a hiding for, say, safety or mysteriousness.
Noun עלם ('elem) describes a young man, עלמה ('alma) a young woman, and עלומים ('alumim) youth(s) in general, which appears to appeal to the still "hidden" potential of youth. Likewise the noun עולם (olam), which means forever or everlasting, appears to refer to the potential of any present situation, which may realize when time is unlimited.
For the meaning of the name Elam, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Hidden, and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Hidden Time, Eternity, but the name Elam means just as much Young Man or Always.