🔼The name Shalmai: Summary
- Yah Envelops
- Yah Is Recompenser, Peace Offering Of The Lord
- From (1) the verb שמל (slm), to envelop (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
- From (1) the verb שלם (shalem), to be or make whole or complete, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Shalmai in the Bible
There's only one man named Shalmai in the Bible. Both Ezra and Nehemiah mention him as the head of a family of Nethinim (temple servants) of which an untold number of members returned from the Babylonian exile (Ezra 2:46, Nehemiah 7:48).
🔼Etymology of the name Shalmai
It's not clear where the name Shalmai comes from. The Masoretes pointed this name as if it came from the verb שמל (sml), meaning to envelop:
The unused verb שמל (samal) probably meant to enclose or envelop (it does so in related languages). Noun שמלה (simla) describes an outer mantle or robe. This noun, curiously, also occurs in the form שלמה (salma), which has the two inner letters reversed and rather obviously resembles the familiar root שלם (shalem), meaning wholeness or peacefulness.
But before the Masoretes did their pointing (and Shalmai was spelled the same as the non-existing name Salmai, or even the existing name Shelomi — all these pronunciations and transliterations are of course guesses as we have no sound recording from Biblical times), our name would have looked like it came from the cluster of words that also gave us the familiar noun שלום (shalom), meaning peace:
The verb שלם (shalem) means to be or make whole or complete, and is also used to describe a righteous recompense or proper restitution (whether positive or not). The familiar noun שלום (shalom) means wholeness, completeness or peace.
Other derivatives are: noun שלם (shelem), peace offering; verb שלם (shalam), to be in a covenant of peace; adjective שלם (shalem), perfect, whole, complete, safe; noun שלם (shillem), recompense; nouns שלמן (shalmon), שלום (shillum), שלם (shillum) and שלמה (shilluma), reward or proper recompense.
The letter י (yod) upon which our name ends, may either create an adjective (peace-like), a possessive form (my peace), or may be a remnant of יה (Yah), which is short for יהוה, which is the name YHWH, or Yahweh.
For a meaning of the name Shalmai, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names take the core of it from the peace-root שלם (shalem), and ascribe the final י (yod) to a remnant of the name of the Lord. NOBSE, however, takes the meaning of recompensation for the core, and reads Yahweh Is Recompenser. Jones sticks with peace, but feels free to associate our name to an offering: Peace Offering Of The Lord. BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of this name and does not list it under any particular root.