🔼The name Rimmon-methoar: Summary
- Outlining To A Pomegranate
- From (1) the noun רמון (rimmon), pomegranate, and (2) the verb תאר (ta'ar), to draw an outline.
🔼The name Rimmon-methoar in the Bible
It's not clear whether Rimmon-methoar (or rather actually Rimmon-hamethoar) is actually a name or not. The authors of the King James thought it was, and so did those of the JSP and Young translations. More recent versions (ASV, NAS, NIV, Darby) only print Rimmon and translate the methoar-part as part of the narrative.
That narrative occurs in Joshua 19:13, where the borders of the territory of Zebulun are discussed. After going through Gath-hepher and Eth-kazin, the border went to רמון המתאר הנעה, or rimmon-hamethoar-hanea. Although this term has all the qualities of one big name, the final part is commonly interpreted as the name Neah and the first part as the familiar name Rimmon. What the middle part is remains unclear.
🔼Etymology of the name Rimmon-methoar
The first part of our name is the same as the noun רמון (rimmon), meaning pomegranate, from the verb רום (rum), 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 Rimmon-methoar may be a certain kind of participle of the verb תאר (ta'ar), meaning to draw an outline:
The verb תור (tur) means to explore or survey and associates with a broad, circular or sweeping motion. Noun תור (tor) or תר (tor) appears to describe a circular braid of hair. Noun יתור (yetur), seems to mean a searching or range. Noun תר (tor) or תור (tor) means dove or turtledove.
Note that likewise the Greek word for dove, namely περιστερα (peristera), appears to be derived from the prefix περι (peri) meaning around or about. This suggests that to the ancients the dove stood symbol for abundance and being all around and everywhere, which explains the bodily form of the Holy Spirit.
Verb תאר (ta'ar) means to outline or trace. Noun תאר (to'ar), means shape or form. Verb תאר (ta'ar), meaning to draw an outline.
Prefixed to the second and the third part of the whole term rimmon-hamethoar-hanea is the letter ה (he), which in this case works as a particle of direction or description, and which is very common in names of the formula X-of-Y.
The Rimmon-part of our name means Pomegranate, so if rimmon-hamethoar is a name, it would mean something like Outlining To A Pomegranate, which doesn't make a lot of sense but could perhaps be construed as a poetic way of denoting, say, a rock in the shape of a pomegranate. Also possible is that hamethoar-hanea was a certain expression, which was lost over time, perhaps meaning something like "forms and wanderings" and denoting the outskirts and regions of the town called Rimmon.
As stated above, most modern commentators and translators see the methoar-part as part of the narrative, but that's actually hard to defend. This participle occurs only in Joshua 19:13, while the descriptions of the tribal territories go on for chapters, which seems to suggest that the author is saying something that doesn't get said anywhere else. It's a mystery that perhaps in the future might be solved with greater authority than anybody's guesses.