🔼The name Hamathite: Summary
- People Of Fortification, Hotness, Waterskin
- From the verb חמם (hamam), to be hot.
🔼The name Hamathite in the Bible
The Hamathite is (are) descendant of Canaan, son of Ham (Genesis 10:18) and one would expect that the name of the Hamathite derives of Ham but the experts say no. All sources point at the city חמת (Hamath), which must have been somewhere in Syria, close to the northern frontier of Israel (1 Kings 8:65, Isaiah 11:11, Ezekiel 47:16).
🔼Etymology of the name Hamathite
Scholars agree that the name Hamath comes from the unused verb חמה, probably meaning to surround or protect:
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.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List interprets the name Hamathite as People Of Hamath, and reads Fortification for Hamath. BDB Theological Dictionary agrees and derives the name via חומה (homa), wall, to Fortress. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives the name Hamath from the same root, and renders it the meaning Defence, Citadel. A Hebrew audience, however, might have noticed the similarity between the name Hamath and the word חמת (hemet) meaning waterskin.