🔼The name Hormah: Summary
- Devoted, Dedicated
- From the verb חרם (haram), to designate or consign to the afterlife.
🔼The name Hormah in the Bible
The name Hormah belongs to one or two cities of indigenous Canaanites, although the Canaanites may not have called their city such.
When the spies return from checking out Canaan and submit bad reports, YHWH declares that Israel will have to stay in the desert for forty years. The Israelites don't like that and decide to go to Canaan anyway. There they are met by the Amalekites, who defeat them as far as Hormah (Numbers 14:45, Deuteronomy 1:44). A while later, however, the king of Arad attacked Israel and Israel defeated him and his army. On account of that victory, the Israelites began to call the place Hormah, so it seems likely that it was called something else before (Numbers 21:3).
When Joshua took over the leadership from Moses, Hormah itself was defeated (Joshua 12:14) and given to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:30). The tribe of Simeon could have no land of its own, so Simeon moved into Judah's territory and lived in Hormah and other cities (Joshua 19:4, 1 Chronicles 4:30). But Simeon and Judah got along famously and when a group of Kenites moved into Zephath, a place in Judah's southland (or Negev), close to Arad, Judah and Simeon joined forces and drove them out. On account of that victory, this place became known as Hormah as well (Judges 1:17).
Much later, while David and his men were with the Philistines, a group of Amalekites attacked David's headquarter in Ziklag and abducted the women. David and his band gave chase, defeated the Amalekites and dispensed the spoil among cities that had been faithful to him. One of these was Hormah (1 Samuel 30:30).
🔼Etymology of the name Hormah
The name Hormah is a feminine noun derived from the verb חרם (haram), which means to designate something or someone to its proper place in the afterlife:
The verb חרם (haram) describes to separate something from its natural economy and consign it to the afterlife. In practice this may either mean to grab hold of something and utterly obliterate it forever, or else set it aside for its forever keeping or some special sacred service (hence the word "harem").
The noun חרם (herem) may either refer to the act of designating something to the afterlife, or the item so designated. Perhaps a second but identical noun (or else this same noun) describes a fishing net. Such a net is of course an item with which fish are extracted from their natural economy and designated their afterlife.
For a meaning of the name Hormah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Devoted To Destruction, but it should be noted that destruction is just one of two outcomes of the action of the verb חרם (haram).
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Anathema, which is the Greek word for a similar duality of something devoted to God (Luke 21:5), or else destined for destruction (Romans 9:3).
BDB Theological Dictionary translates this name with Asylum, because the cognate Arabic noun means just that.