🔼The name Ramoth: Summary
- Heights, High Places
- From the verb רום (rum), to be high.
🔼The name Ramoth in the Bible
There several towns named Ramoth (or Ramath) in the Bible, and perhaps also one man. According to some manuscripts, the man named Ramoth (רמות) is a son of Bani, who had married a foreign woman and divorced her during the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:29). Most manuscripts, however, name this man ירמות (Jeremoth).
The towns named Ramoth are:
- A prominent town in the region known as Gilead, which was part of the territory of the tribe of Gad, east of the Jordan. It's called ראמת בגלעד (Ramath in Gilead) in Deuteronomy 4:43 and Joshua 20:8 (where it is listed among the "cities of refuge"), and ראמות בגלעד in 1 Chronicles 6:80.
When the Levites were assigned their cities in Israel (they had no land of their own, according to the command of patriarch Jacob — Genesis 49:7) the tribe of Gad donated the refuge-city Ramoth in Gilead (now spelled רמת בגלעד — Joshua 21:38).
At the time of king Solomon, the place is called רמת גלעד or רמות גלעד (Ramoth-gilead) and Solomon has one of his twelve deputies, Ben-geber, stationed there (1 Kings 4:13). By the time of kings Ahab of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah, Ramoth-gilead is occupied by the Arameans, and the two kings decide to do something about that. They inquire of all kinds of prophets, who wholly endorse the idea of a conquest, but then interview a prophet of YHWH, named Micaiah, who speaks of trouble and scattered sheep. Ahab doesn't like that much, has Micaiah thrown in jail, and marches upon Ramoth-gilead with Jehoshaphat and their two armies. By evening, Ahab lies curled up in his chariot bleeding to death from an arrow wound, and his soldiers and colleague king scatter like the foretold sheep (1 Kings 21-22).
About twelve years later, the son of Ahab and the grandson of Jehoshaphat, namely king Joram of Israel and king Ahaziah of Judah, try again and attack king Hazael of Aram at Ramoth-gilead (2 Kings 8:28; in 8:29 this name is shortened to Ramah). Joram leaves the battle wounded and goes to Jezreel — a town of Issachar, well west of the Jordan — to convalesce, and king Ahaziah swiftly follows to help him with that.
The kings' armies, in the meantime, are left without their monarchs, and the prophet Elisha has an assistant travel to Ramoth-gilead to seek out sub-commander Jehu, and anoint him king over Israel (2 Kings 9:3). Jehu's first order of business is to race from Ramoth-gilead to Jezreel to deal with the two truant regents. Joram, miraculously, appears well enough to ride and the two rush to meet Jehu, hoping for word of victory. Instead, Joram receives an arrow to the chest and promptly expires. Getting Ahaziah requires some hunting, but after a high speed chase, Jehu and his men nail him at Ibleam. Mortally wounded, Ahaziah hobbles onto Megiddo, where he too dies (2 Kings 9:27).
- A town in the territory of Judah, which was given to the tribe of Simeon, which also wasn't supposed to have land (Joshua 19:8). The majority of the modern translations call this place Ramah, but the Hebrew reads ראמת נגב (Ramath Negev). It's most likely the same as רמות־נגב (Ramoth-negev) mentioned in 1 Samuel 30:27.
- A town in Issachar, which was given to the Gershonite Levites (1 Chronicles 6:73).
🔼Etymology of the name Ramoth
The name Ramoth 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.
For a meaning of the name Ramoth, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads the plural High Places and BDB Theological Dictionary has Heights. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) appears to take Ramoth to be just an alternate spelling of the name Ramah, and reads the singular Lofty Place for both.