🔼The name Ithamar: Summary
- Palm Coast
- From (1) the noun אי ('i), coast land, from the verb אוה ('wh), which possibly expressed being desirous, and (2) the noun תמר (tamar), palm tree.
🔼The name Ithamar in the Bible
There's only one Ithamar in the Bible and he is one of the four sons of Aaron the brother of Moses and Miriam, and his wife Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab. Ithamar's brothers are called Nadab, Abihu and Eleazar (Exodus 6:23).
Since the priesthood and the high-priesthood was an exclusive asset of the descendants of Aaron, the sons of Aaron not only became clan-heads but also the patriarchs of distinct categories in the priesthood (Exodus 28:1, 38:21). Nadab and Abihu, however, came to their untimely demise when they offered "strange fire" before YHWH and they died childless because of that (Leviticus 10:1, Numbers 3:4). Moses told the remaining sons of Aaron, Ithamar and Eleazar, to not even mourn their brothers' deaths.
When the worship service began to take shape, Ithamar would direct the Gershonites (Numbers 4:28) and the sons of Merari (Numbers 4:33). During the time of David, the duties pertaining to the "officers of the sanctuary and officers of God" were divided over the descendants of Ithamar and Eleazar (1 Chronicles 24:5). At the time of the exile this division was still intact, as Ezra lists among those who returned with him a man named Daniel "of the sons of Ithamar" (Ezra 8:2).
🔼Etymology of the name Ithamar
The name Ithamar could be construed as to consist of two elements. The first one would be the multifarious word אי ('i):
There are four different verbs אוה ('wh), which all appear to express a desire or movement toward something. Noun אי ('i) means coast, which has been mankind's preferred place to settle since time immemorial. Nouns או ('aw), מאוי (ma'away), אוה ('awwa) and תאוה (ta'awa) all mean desire. The noun אות ('ot) means mark or sign, and humanity's earliest marks were not to assert private ownership but rather a collective identity: something to draw toward and gather around. Noun אי ('i) means jackal, and noun איה (ayya) means hawk or falcon. These creatures were possibly named after their supplicatory calls, or else their rapturous method of predation.
The conjunction או ('o) means "or." The interjection אי ('i) expresses regret: "alas!" Adverb אי ('i) may serve as a particle of negation ("to be desired" and thus not so), or as an interrogative adverb, meaning "where?", usually in rhetorical questions. The substantive אין ('ayin) expresses negation or nothingness and occurs hundreds of times in the construct מאין (m'ayin), which literally means "from where is not?", as introduction to a rhetorical question concerning something that is true in all known parts of the world: "where isn't it so that such and such, hmm?"
The second part of our name looks strikingly like the noun תמר (tamar), meaning palm tree:
The noun תמר (tamar) means palm tree but it's not immediately clear from what verb it comes, and thus how the ancients saw the palm tree — in the Bible all trees (oaks, figs, olives, and so on) relate to certain aspects of the wisdom tradition. Female judge Deborah had her seat under a palm tree, which seems to suggest that the palm tree related to a kind of popular court.
Noun תמר (tomer) also means palm tree but secondarily refers to a kind of sign post or pillar. Nouns תמרה (timora) and תימרה (timara) refer to palm-like artistic expressions; the first word describes an image of a palm tree and the second a palm-like pillar. Since the word "palm-like" does not necessarily mean to look like a palm, but merely to imitate some kind of signature quality of the palm, it's debated what a palm-like item might actually be.
It appears that the palm tree reminded the ancients of a social focal point that was spontaneously and organically established (rather than by some decree or violence or trickery). A palm is like paths that form in an open field with a well at the center, or it's like the effects of a free market, which drives society to unknown heights that no single trader could have imagined.
For a meaning of the name Ithamar, NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes Island Of Palms and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Land Of Palm. BDB Theological Dictionary, in its signature trepid form, keeps all options open and reads (Is)land Of Palms?.