🔼The name Ge-melah: Summary
- Valley Of Salt
- From (1) the noun גיא (gai'), valley or plain, and (2) the noun מלח (melah), salt.
🔼The name Ge-melah in the Bible
The name Ge-melah is one of a few Biblical names that customarily are translated in translations (namely as the Valley of Salt). It's spelled in three different ways, and mentioned five times in accounts that are either conflicting, augmentative or highly allegorical:
In 2 Samuel 8:13 we read how David killed 18,000 Arameans (some manuscripts read Edomites) in the Valley of Salt (גיא־מלח), after which he placed garrisons in Edom. This statement seems to be designed to summarize the battle against Hadadezer of Zobah, but in that battle David killed 22,000 Arameans (2 Samuel 8:5). We read the same account in Chronicles but now not David but Abishai, son of Zeruiah defeats 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt (גיא המלח), after which he puts garrisons in Edom (1 Chronicles 18:12). The header of Psalm 60 tells again the same story, but now we have Joab smite 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt (גיא־מלח).
According to 2 Kings 14:7, many years later, king Amaziah slew 10,000 of Edom in the Valley of Salt (גיא־המלח) but 2 Chronicles 25:11 speaks of 10,000 sons of Seir who were killed in the Valley of Salt (גיא המלח) and 10,000 more who were thrown off a cliff.
🔼Etymology of the name Ge-melah
The name Ge-melah consists of two elements. The first part is the noun גיא (gai'), meaning valley or flat, low plain:
The verb גיח (giah), or גוח (gwh), means to burst forth. It's applied to rivers and human births. Human collectives such as families and tribes are in the Bible often symbolized as mountains. Hence births signify valleys and are associated with rivers.
Verb גיא (gy') isn't used in the Bible and its meaning is subsequently unknown. The derived noun גיא (gai'), however, means valley and is used frequently. There are at least seven named valleys mentioned in the Old Testament.
The observation that "every valley shall be exalted and every mountain made low" ties into the principle of rebirth, via which is peopled a world in which every individual is king and high priest and utterly free.
The second part of our name is the word מלח (melah), meaning salt or literally "dry-maker":
The verb מלח (malah) probably means to make dry or to absorb. The noun מלח (melah) would literally mean "dry maker" and was the regular word for salt. Salt, of course, dried food and by doing so preserved it for long periods of time. That means that "salting" something didn't simply mean to give it a salty taste but rather to dry and thus disinfect something (whether with or without actual salt). Noun מלחה (meleha) might mean saltiness but generally means dry or dryness.
The name Ge-melah literally means Valley Of Salt, which in physical geography may have denoted a place where salt was mined (possibly somewhere in the Rift Valley, where the Salt Sea is located; the Edomites lived just south of the Salt Sea). But the mentions of Ge-melah are obviously of great symbolic portent, and reminds of what Joel called the Valley (עמק, 'emeq; ) of Decision (החרוץ): "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of YHWH is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:14).