🔼The name Ramath-mizpeh: Summary
- Elevated Lookout, High Hope
- From (1) the verb רום (rum), to be high, and (2) the noun מצפה (mispeh), watchtower, from the verb צפה (sapa), to hope or look out.
🔼The name Ramath-mizpeh in the Bible
The name Ramath-mizpeh (or rather: Ramath-hamizpeh) occurs once in the Bible. It's the name of a city which is mentioned as a boundary marker of the territory assigned to the tribe of Gad.
Since Gad occupied the northern part of the region east of the Jordan (the tribe of Reuben occupied the southern part), some scholars forward that Ramath-mizpeh may the same as the Mizpah founded by Laban and Jacob (Genesis 31:49).
🔼Etymology of the name Ramath-mizpeh
The name Ramath-mizpeh consists of two elements. The first part is either a plural form of the name Ramah, or an older spelling of the same. Both come from the verb רום (rum), meaning to be high:
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.
The second part of our name is the same as the name Mizpeh/Mizpah and that name is the same as the noun מצפה (mispeh), meaning watchtower or lookout point:
Verb צפה (sapa) speaks of covering, whether a literal covering of an item with an overlay like gold or the figurative covering of watchman's surroundings by his watchful gaze. In cognate languages this verb also means to hope.
Noun צפיה (sippiya) means lookout post and noun מצפה (mispeh) means watchtower. Noun צפוי (sippuy) means plating, noun צפית (sapit) means rug or carpet, and noun צפת (sepet) refers to the plated capital of a pillar.
Verb צוף (sup) means to flow or float on top of something else. Noun צוף (sup) describes a honeycomb, or rather the structure of hexagonal cells upon which honey floats. Verb צפה (sapa) means outflow.
Verb צפן (sapan) means to hide or store up. Nouns צפין (sapin) and מצפון (maspon) describe a mass of predominantly static wealth. Noun צפון (sapon) means north, as for unexplained reasons the Bible considers the north a place of gathering. Noun or adjective צפוני (seponi) means northern or northern one.
Verb שפן (shapan) isn't used in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to hide. Noun שפן (shapan) describes a kind of cud-chewing, rock-dwelling animal with no divided hoofs, commonly (rather oddly) interpreted as rock-badger or coney.
Prefixed to the second part is the particle of approach, ה (he).
The whole name Ramath-mizpeh would mean something like Lookout Height, but with the particle of approach stuck to the second element, it's probably best interpreted as Height Before Mizpah or even Elevation To Look Out From.