🔼The name Jeremiah: Summary
- Yah Throws, Yah Loosens
- Elevated Of Yah
- From (1) the verb רמה (rama), to throw or loosen, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
- From (1) the verb רום (rum), to be high, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Jeremiah in the Bible
There are quite a few Jeremiah's mentioned in the Bible, but the best known, of course, is the prophet Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah the priest. This Jeremiah lived in a Benjaminite village close to Jerusalem named Anathoth (Jeremiah 1:1) where he also owned land (Jeremiah 32:7-15). For most of his ministry he was accompanied by Baruch the scribe, son of Neriah (Jeremiah 32:12), and most of Jeremiah's ministry concerned the invasion of Judah by Babylonian forces, the sacking of Jerusalem and the exile.
Besides the famous prophet (whose name is also spelled ירמיהו — Jeremiahu), there are eight Jeremiah's mentioned in the Bible:
- The maternal grandfather of king Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:31).
- A family head of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:23).
- A Benjaminite mighty-man (1 Chronicles 12:4).
- Two Gadite mighty-men (1 Chronicles 12:10 and 12:13).
- A priest who signs the renewal of the covenant (Nehemiah 10:2).
- A post-exilic priest (Nehemiah 12:1).
- A Rechabite (Jeremiah 35:3).
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Jeremiah
The name Jeremiah consists of two parts, the final one being יה, the abbreviated form of יהוה, the Name of God (see YHWH). It's not exactly clear where the first part of the name Jeremiah may derive of, although BDB Theological Dictionary and NOBSE Study Bible Name List agree it's from the verb רמה (rama):
The verb רמה (rama) essentially means to loosen, but is used only three times literally (twice for shooting arrows and once for hurling riders into the sea). Mostly our verb is used in the sense of playing loose with the truth, i.e. to compromise the solidness of trustworthiness and be swampy.
Hence our verb is mostly translated with to beguile, deceive or mislead. Nouns רמיה (remiya), מרמה (mirma), תרמה (torma) and תרמית (tarmit) describe various degrees and nuances of treachery, deceit and looseness in the trustworthiness department.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List favors relations with rama I and reads Yahweh Throws, and since this may be a bit odd, continuous to explain that it may be in the sense of laying a foundation, and translates the name Jeremiah with Yahweh Establishes, Appoints or Sends. This seems, however, a bit too creative. This root group is never used to indicate the fixing of something, but always quite the opposite.
Reading the name Jeremiah this way may seem to make him a Human Arrow On God's Bow, but in fact it will mean He'll Be Dumped By The Lord.
BDB Theological Dictionary tries to solve this problem by first of all go with an assumed secondary root that only means to loosen, and then referring to an Assyrian name or phrase meaning "whose womb is loosened". That way, proclaims BDB, the name Jeremiah may mean Yah Looseneth, and thus conveying the gladness of parents for conceiving (compare Genesis 29:31). Still, in Hebrew this verb is never used in relation to giving birth.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names abandons this troublesome root-group altogether but also seeks refuge in a word that has no Biblical precedent: the unused root ירם (yaram), to be elevated. Jones reports that this root has to do with the familiar Hebrew verb רום (rum), to be high, lofty:
The verb רום (rum) means to be high or high up in either a physical, social or even attitudinal sense, and may also refer to the apex in a natural process: the being ripe and ready-for-harvest of fruits. Subsequently, our verb may imply a state beyond ripe (higher than ripe, overripe), which thus refers to rotting and being maggot riddled. This means that to the ancients higher did not simply mean better, and an arrogant political status that was higher than it should be equaled rot and worms (Acts 12:23).
Derived nouns, such as רום (rum) and related forms, describe height or pride. Noun רמות (ramut) describes some high thing. The noun ארמון ('armon) refers to a society's apex: a citadel or palace. The noun ראם (re'em) describes the wild ox, which was named possibly for the same reason why we moderns call a rising market a "bull" market. The similar verb ראם (ra'am) means to rise.
The important noun רמון (rimmon) means pomegranate and the pomegranate became the symbol for harvest-ready fruit (see our full dictionary article for more on this). Overripe items might suffer the noun רמה (rimma), worm or maggot, or the verb רמם (ramam), to be wormy.
Hence Jones reads Elevated Of The Lord. However, the derivation רמה (rama) means height, high place. Using that particular word would render the name Jeremiah as My High Place Is The Lord.