🔼The name Shemamah: Summary
- Devastation, Waste
- From the verb שמם (shamem), to be desolate or appalled.
🔼The name Shemamah in the Bible
The name Shemamah occurs just once in the Bible, in a group of four nicknames that the prophet Isaiah renders to Jerusalem, Judah and Israel (Isaiah 62:4). Two out of these four are names that are also assigned to women in the Bible, so it may be proper to assume that the other two can be viewed as female names as well.
🔼Etymology of the name Shemamah
The name Shemamah comes from the verb שמם (shamem), meaning to be desolate or appalled:
The verb שמם (shamem) means to be desolate, devastated or abandoned. It usually describes a literal empty place but may also be used to describe a mental state, in which case it refers to being appalled.
Adjective שמם (shamem) means devastated or deserted. Nouns שממה (shemama), שמה (shamma), שממון (shimmamon) and משמה (meshamma) denote various forms and degrees of waste, devastation, horror or appalment.
Verb ישם (yasham) is a by-form of the previous and means the same, albeit with an apparent emphasis on dry and arid lands. Noun ישימון (yeshimon, or variants) refers to desolate regions and mostly describes deserts. Noun ישימה (yeshima) describes the mental equivalent (whatever that might be).
Noun שמים (shamayim) means heavens. It's a plural form of a non-existing singular word שמי (shamay), coming from an assumed root שמה (shama). Whether or not this word is formally related to the above, to the ancients the heavens were clearly known as a vast emptiness that filled the observer with existential horror.
Equally striking is the noun שם (shem), which means name or renown. This suggests that the ancients saw someone's empty head as the same howling infinite as empty space, and all formal knowledge of the whole of creation that a person might accrue equal to this person's name.
Isaiah explains this name by stating that Jerusalem will no longer be called Azubah (Forsaken) and her land Shemamah (Desolate), but Jerusalem will be called Hephzibah (My Delight Is In Her) and her land Beulah (Married), "because YHWH delights in you, and your land will be married (62:4)".
The name Shemamah is identical to the word shemama listed above, and means Devastation or Waste.
This may be a curious name to give a child, but as the Hebrews thought of names differently than we do (see our review of the different mechanisms of naming by following the link to our general article on Biblical names below), the root shamen is used in the Bible for several human and locality names (see the list of associated names above).