🔼The name Emmaus: Summary
- Hotnesses, Hot Springs
- From the verb חמם (hamam), to be hot.
🔼The name Emmaus in the Bible
The name Emmaus occurs only once in the Bible, but in one of the most amazing of contexts. The evangelist Luke tells us the story of two men (one name Cleopas and the other unnamed) who were travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which Luke places 60 stadia (11 kilometer) north of Jerusalem (Luke 24:13). As they walked they discussed the crucifixion of Jesus, which happened a few days earlier and which had resulted in his body gone missing.
Translations usually have Jesus show up while they were talking, but the Greek uses the word εν, en, meaning in. In their talking, Jesus appeared and travelled along with them (reminiscent of Matthew 18:20). He invites them to tell his story, and then he tells his story, starting from Moses down to the prophets. As they reach Emmaus, they insist on him staying with them. He does so, but only when he breaks the bread do they recognize him. At once he vanishes from their sight.
The theological implications of this story are enormous. Jesus obviously enjoyed talking to the men and was downright facetious. His manner of appearance and subsequent disappearance brings to mind a spirit but his traveling, talking, joking, reclining but most of all the men's unawareness reveals quite clearly that he looked like an ordinary fellow. And why would Luke specify the name of the town? It doesn't really seem to matter which town it was, so why the reference to Emmaus?
In New Testament times, the name Emmaus was doubtlessly most connected to the Battle of Emmaus, fought a century and a half earlier by Judas Maccabeus and his troops against the Seleucids. The Maccabean victory meant the end of one of the worst holocausts in Jewish history and the independence of Judah for the first time since the Babylonian sacked Jerusalem in 586 BC.
After Emmaus, Judas Maccabeus successfully engaged various other nations and secured a long-lasting peace in Palestine. His brother Simon became the first monarch of the Hasmonean Dynasty in 141 BC, which was recognized by the Roman Senate and lasted until it was overthrown by the Idumean Herod the Great around 39 BC. Herod murdered the last of the Hasmoneans, including his wife Mariamne and their sons.
In his book 50 Battles that Changed the World, Weilam Weir ranks the Battle of Emmaus as the twentieth most influential battle of mankind's history (and the third most influential of all BC battles), and observes: "Judas's victory ensured that Judaism would not die, and that Christianity, an outgrowth of Judaism, could be born".
🔼Etymology of the name Emmaus
The name Emmaus is thought to be a Hellenized version of the Hebrew name Hammath, even though the only known Hammath was located much more north. Still, there may have been more places called Hammath. The name Hammath comes from the root חמם (hamam), meaning to be warm:
The verb חמם (hamam) means to be hot and is sometimes used to describe mental agitation. Nouns חם (hom) and חמה (hamma) mean heat. Adjective חם (ham) means hot. The noun חמן (hamman) denotes a kind of mysterious small pillar (perhaps a device?).
The verb יחם (yaham) also means to be hot, but mostly in a mental sense: to be exited or angered. The noun חמה (hema) mostly refers to a severe mental "burning": anger or rage.
The verb חמה (hmh) is not used in the Bible, but in cognate languages it means to surround, guard or protect. Perhaps this verb has nothing to do with the previous and only accidentally looks similar, but perhaps it ties into the fact that natural open fires aren't very warm and smelting metals require sophisticated ovens. Noun חם (ham) means father-in-law and its feminine equivalent, חמות (hamot), means mother-in-law — and note that the Trojan theme of the "girl" kept in the city of her forceful lover is very common in classical literature. Noun חומה (homa) describes a protective wall.
The noun חום (hum) describes a color or pattern of coloration of sheep and goats. It's not clear whether this pattern resembled sparks, fire or enclosures, or perhaps that this word in not related to the previous.
Noun חמת (hemet) means waterskin and may derive from a wholly different verb. Still, the verb נהר (nahar) means both to flow (of water) and to shine (of light) and a waterskin filled with water is not unlike a kiln containing a very warm fire.
The name Emmaus means Hot Springs.