🔼The name Hammath: Summary
- Hotness, Hot Springs
- From the verb חמם (hamam), to be hot.
🔼The name Hammath in the Bible
There are two Hammaths mentioned in the Bible, one person and one city:
- Hammath the city is situated in the territory of Naphtali, near the sea of Tiberias (Joshua 19:35). It may (or may not) be that this town is the same as Hammoth-dor mentioned in Joshua 21:32.
- Hammath the person is a Kenite and the ancestor of the house of Rechab. He is mentioned in the genealogy of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:55) but it's not clear whether Hammath's Kenite descendants were simply living in Judah's territory (namely in Jabez and other cities; 1 Samuel 31:29) or that they were properly proselytized and formally adopted by Judah. At least the Rechabites said to Jeremiah that they had dwelt in but separately of Judah until the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar forced them into Jerusalem (Jeremiah 35:10).
The Hebrew name Hammath is generally considered to be the source of the New Testament name Emmaus.
🔼Etymology of the name Hammath
All sources derive the name Hammath from the root חמם (hamam), meaning to be warm. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names assumes that the town Hammath contained hot springs, hence the name:
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.
For a meaning of the name Hammath, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Hot Springs. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Warm Baths.