🔼The name Jambres: Summary
- He Will Be Fat, Well Fed
- Opposer, The Rebel
- From the verb מרא (mara'), to be fat or well-fed.
- From the verb מרה (mara), to be contentious or rebellious.
🔼The name Jambres in the Bible
The name Jambres occurs only once in the Bible. In his second letter to his young friend Timothy, Paul refers to the legend of Jannes and Jambres and their foiled opposition to Moses (2 Timothy 3:8), and compares it to the inevitable attitude of most religious folks of the latter days, with lots of blather and no real power.
This folkloric legend of Jannes and Jambres probably started out as a spin-off of the battle-of-wits between Moses and Aaron on one side and the magicians of Egypt on the other (Exodus 7:9-13), but its surprisingly rich legacy in ancient literature and the width of the application of the Jannes and Jambres characters (see our article on the name Jannes for more detail) suggests that this legend was never meant to reflect newspaper reality but rather allegory.
What precisely Jannes and Jambres personified isn't clear beyond their obvious failure to stick to the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but Paul's lack of hesitation to use this legend as fortification of his earlier assertions, also demonstrates his belief that "all writing" (πασα γραφη, pasa graphe) is God-breathed and profitable for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16).
Paul's view is obviously contrary to the ludicrous position of certain religious folk of the latter days, who maintain that solely our modern Bible is God-breathed. Our modern Bible didn't even exist when Paul wrote this, in the 60's in Rome. At that time the Hebrew canon was not agreed upon and the gospels and Revelation didn't exist yet (as they were written in the immediate post-Templar period of 70 to 100 AD).
Of course Paul acknowledged a distinction between so-called Holy Scriptures and the rest of literature, but people who ponder the term "God-breathed" often appear to forget what an amazing thing written language is. Writing is the beginning of information technology, and it changed everything for mankind.
🔼Etymology of the name Jambres
It's not clear whether the name Jambres was originally Egyptian and transliterated into Greek, or perhaps rather Hebrew in origin (as the tale itself) and descriptive of his literary qualities. The latter possibility is more likely to be true, and in Hebrew writing this character is usually given as ימבריס (Yambres) or even ממרא (Mamre).
The latter name is familiar because it was also the name of the place where Abraham dwelt: the oaks of Mamre, which is not just some place with nice trees but a reference to a wisdom school (and particularly one of low esteem — the word for oak is also the word for fool; see our article on אלון, 'allon).
Where the name Mamre comes from is also not clear but the first of the two מ's is probably a prefix that means "place/agent of". The second part may come from the verb מרא (mara'), meaning to be fat or well-fed:
The verb מרא (mara') means to be fat or well-fed (and thus of a high social rank). Noun מריא (meri') denotes a fatling or fattened animal. The noun מראה (mur'a) denotes a part of a bird, obviously a fatty part.
Another possible root of our name is the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be strong or bitter, or rather the verb מרה (mara), meaning to be contentious or rebellious:
The verb מרר (marar) means to be strong or bitter and can be used to describe tastes and smells, and hard or difficult situations.
Adjectives מר (mar) and מרירי (meriri) mean bitter. Nouns מרור (maror) and מרורה (merora) refer to any bitter thing, the former specifically to a certain bitter herb, and the latter to gall or poison.
Noun מררה (merera) also means gal. Nouns מרה (morra), מרה (mora), מרירות (merirut), ממר (memer), ממרור (mamror) and תמרור (tamrur) mean bitterness. The latter noun is spelled identical to the noun תמרור (tamrur), meaning marker or sign post, from the root תמר (tamar), meaning to be stiff or erect.
And speaking of such, the nouns מר (mor) and מור (mor) mean myrrh, a bitter and fragrant spice that was originally used to mark the tabernacle, but which came to be used to proclaim, olfactorily, the consummation of marriage. Hence, despite its links to words that mostly describe hardship, myrrh oil was known as the "oil of joy."
Verb מרה (mara) means to be contentious or rebellious, particularly against God. Noun מרי (meri) means rebellion.
The verb מור (mor) means to change. Perhaps the connection between the previous is coincidental but perhaps these words are indeed linked, as change is often reaction to bitterness or opposition. The noun תמורה (temura) means exchange.
For a meaning of the name Jambres, NOBSE Study Bible Name List suggests Opposer while the Jewish Encyclopedia appears to favor The Rebel, but these are rather uninspired interpretations that fail to incorporate the notion that the story of Jannes and Jambres originated in the greatest literary tradition our world has ever seen, and which hasn't been surpassed or even approximated since.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that Jannes and Jambres represent two kindred attitudes that fail to be wholly in synch with the Natural Laws of God but nevertheless manage to acquire great power. We're guessing that Jannes represents mankind's persistent vice to want a return that exceeds the investment (demonstrated for instance by a prayer meeting in which people ask magic intervention of God but engage in no further action themselves), and Mamre the common but detrimental desire to live a life of excess and redundancy.
In other words: Jannes means For Free and Jambres means More Than Enough.