🔼The name Gomorrah: Summary
- Tyrannical Dealings, Throes
- People Of Fear, People Who Shoot Arrows
- From the verb עמר ('amar), to grip of bind.
- From (1) the noun עם ('am), people or kinsman, and (2) the verb ירה (yarah), to be a lot of a little.
🔼The name Gomorrah in the Bible
We hear first of Gomorrah in the War of Four Against Five Kings, when king Amraphel of Shinar and three of his royal friends waged war against king Birsha of Gomorrah and four of his associates (Genesis 14:2).
In the New Testament, the city of Gomorrah (Γομορρα) is mentioned 5 times in reference to its demise due to the evil that went on in there (see full New Testament concordance).
🔼Etymology of the name Gomorrah
The name Gomorrah is clearly similar to the root group עמר ('amar), meaning to grip or bind:
The root עמר ('amar) means to grip or bind, to deal tyrannically with, or to be enthralled by and worship.
Noun עמר ('omer) means sheaf or describes a unit of measure (like our "bushel"). Denominative verb עמר ('amar) means to bind in sheaves. Noun עמיר ('amir) denotes a row of fallen grain.
Alfred Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, however, says that the name Gomorrah consists of two elements, the first one being עם ('am), meaning people, from the assumed root עמם:
The verb עמם ('mm) probably expressed to be inclusive or comprehensive. Its rare uses in the Bible relate to making secrets or making info available to an in-crowd. Preposition עם ('im) means 'with', מעם (me'im) means 'from', and עמה ('umma) means 'beside'. Noun עם ('am) means a people, ranging from all of mankind to the in-crowd of a small village. Noun עם ('am) refers to one's (paternal) kinsman.
The second element of the name Gomorrah, according to Alfred Jones, comes from the verb ירה (yarah), which he equates with ירא (yara'), to be fearful or to revere:
The verb ירה (yara) describes the bringing about of a unified effect by means of many little impulses (arrows, stones, words, instructions, rain drops, and so on). Noun יורה (yoreh) refers to rain that falls during the first period of the agricultural year, when seedlings bud but don't bear fruit yet. Noun מורה (moreh) may either also refer to early rain, or it means teacher, who is a person who teaches children who can't think for themselves yet. Noun תורה (tora), refers to any set of instructions (hence the familiar word Torah).
The verb ירא (yara') describes the same process, but rather from the perspective of the receiving "soil": to revere, to pay heed to, and in extreme cases: to fear. Nouns יראה (yir'a), מורא (mora') and מורה (mora) cover the broad spectrum between reverence and fear, between anything awe-inspiring and anything terrifying.
For a meaning of the name Gomorrah, Alfred Jones reads People Of Fear. For reasons beyond the scope of us here at Abarim Publications, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Submersion.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't offer a translation but lists the name Gomorrah under עמר II, meaning to deal tyrannical with. A proper (feminine) noun derived from this verb would mean something like Tyrannical Dealings. But to a Hebrew audience the name Gomorrah may very well have sounded like Sheave as well.