🔼The name Helam: Summary
- Fortress, Mighty
- From the verb חול (hul), to be strong or circular.
🔼The name Helam in the Bible
The name Helam occurs twice in the Bible, in consecutive verses, but the strange thing is that in these two verses the spelling of this name varies considerably. The author of the Book of Samuel tells us how David's well-meant envoy of consolatory ambassadors is mistreated by king Hanun of the Ammonites, whose father had passed away. A war erupts and Israel's army defeats the Ammonites and their Aramean associates. 2 Samuel 10:16 tells us how the Aramean king Hadadezer musters his army and gathers at a place called Helam (חילם). Upon hearing about this (according to 1 Samuel 10:17) David gathers his troops, crosses the Jordan river and arrives at Helam (חלאם). Then the Arameans form their ranks, engage Israel and are thoroughly defeated.
Traditionally, exegetes have understood that both armies gathered at the same place, which was called Helam in two different ways, but it's also possible that the Arameans gathered at one place, called חילם ("Hilm"), while Israel gathered at another, adjacent place called חלאם ("Hlam"), and that the Arameans marched from Hilm to Hlam to charge Israel.
🔼Etymology of the name Helam
Both names Helam may come from the noun חיל (hayil), meaning might, derived from the verb חול II (hul II), meaning to be firm or to endure. Or it's made from the similar noun חיל (hel), meaning rampart or fortress, derived from the verb חול I (hul I), meaning to whirl or writhe:
- Verb חול (hul I) denotes a whirling in circular motions. It comes with quite a cluster of derivatives, most notably the noun חל (hol), meaning sand; the noun חל (hil), meaning pain so bad that it makes one writhe (specifically childbirth); the noun חל (hel), which denotes a (circular) rampart, and the nouns מחול (mahol) and מחולה (mehola), which describe (whirling) dances.
- Verb חול (hul II) means to be strong, and the important derived noun חיל (hayil) means might.
- A by-form of the previous: the verb חלם (halam I) means to be strong.
- Verb חלם (halam II) means to dream, and its derived noun חלום (halom) means a dream.
These curious parallels suggests that the Hebrews saw dreaming as something cyclic; see our full dictionary article on these words for a closer look at dreams in the Bible. Also note the similarities in form with the חלל (halal) cluster.
For a meaning of the name Helam, NOBSE Study Bible Name List obviously takes it from root חול I and reads Fortress. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) derives our name from חול II and translates it with An Army. BDB Theological Dictionary does not translate our name but lists it under חול I, which would support the interpretation of NOBSE.