🔼The name Shemiramoth: Summary
- Fame Of The Highest, Most Exalted Name
- Death Watches
- From (1) the noun שם (shem), name or renown, and (2) the verb רום (rum), to be high.
- From (1) the verb שמר (shamar), to watch, and (2) the verb מות (mut), to die or to kill.
🔼The name Shemiramoth in the Bible
In translated versions of the Bible there are two men named Shemiramoth:
- One of the Levite musicians who played on his harp set to alamoth when king David moved the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:18, 15:20 and 16:5).
- One of the itinerant Levite teachers of the Torah of YHWH, who were sent throughout Judah by king Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:8).
But that the second person was called Shemiramoth was really an invention of the Masoretes in the second half of the first millennium AD. As they themselves noted (in the so-called Kethib), the traditional text read שמרימות (Shemrimoth — the difference is in the place of the letter י, yod), and that makes quite a difference.
🔼Etymology of the name Shemiramoth
The name Shemiramoth (שמירמות) consists of two elements, the first one being the noun שם (shem), meaning name or renown:
The noun שם (shem) means name, but the ancients saw one's name as summary of the deeds and traits this person was known for (e.g. He Who Slew Many In The Great War). That means that when Man named the animals (Genesis 2:19), he didn't call them Tom, Dick or Harry but rather consciously reckoned his fellow creatures for their essential natures (which in turn cemented his own).
In case one had no claim to fame, one would be prone to acquire a name that commemorated not one's own deeds but rather some worthy event (e.g. The Great War). Such a person's name would have the function of reminding other people of that memorable event, without in the least suggesting to embody it. Very often people would be named after traits of God (Yah's Grace, El's Wrath), which meant that the bearer was known to proclaim these traits rather than claim to be the embodiment of them.
Since the Creator's invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen, being understood through what has been made (Romans 1:20), knowing the "Name of God" is the same thing as understanding the whole of creation, which in turn means that a true desire for righteousness leads to science rather than to religion.
Then there is the identical adverb שם (sham), which means here, there, hither or thither. These two words may have accidentally evolved into the same form, but perhaps this adverb served as a sort of pronoun by which an otherwise unnamed or unspecified location was named.
The second part of our name looks like it might be derived from the verb רום (rum), meaning to be high, lofty or arrogant:
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.
However, the alternative spelling of שמרימות, which the Masoretes deemed a text error and corrected, seems to consist from two different elements. This other spelling seems like it starts with the form שמר (shamar):
The verb שמר (shamar) means to guard or to exercise great care over. Noun שמרה (shomra) means guard. Noun שמר (shimmur) means night watch. Noun אשמורה ('ashmura) or אשמרת ('ashmoret) refers to the night watch as unit of time. Noun משמר (mishmar) describes the "place or agent" of guarding, which may come down to either a prison or a guard, but it may also describe the keeping on some religious observances or something like that. Noun משמרת (mishmeret), literally meaning "with the function of watching," used in the sense of a charge or obligation; an official function of guarding. Noun שמרה (shemura) describes an eyelid.
Noun שמר (shemer) describes the dregs or residue that collects at the bottom of a bottle of wine. This word may stem from a whole other root, or it reflects the similarity between patiently standing through a night watch and a bottle ageing in a rack. This word may also describe a stagnant heart, either as a heart in which dregs settle out or a heart that's carefully guarded.
Noun שמיר (shamir) describes some kind of wild, thorny vegetation that covers large areas. Again, this noun may stem from a whole other verb, but a hedge of thorns is not unlike a perimeter peopled by armed guards, or even a tender heart that's guarded by sarcasm and a proneness to insult.
The noun שמור (shamor), fennel, equals the Greek noun μαραθον (marathon), and Greece's victory at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) made the whole world Greek.
And the second part of our name looks like it has to do with the verb מות (mut), meaning to die or to kill:
The verb מות (mut) means to die or kill. Nouns מות (mawet), ממות (mamot), and תמותה (temuta) mean death. In a theology that operated perpendicularly upon that which worshipped life, death was venerated under the names Mot and Mawet.
The noun מת (mat) is a word for man, and particularly a man capable of combat and exerting death.
For a meaning of the name Shemiramoth, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Fame Of The Highest and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Most Exalted Name.
But the alternative spelling of our name could be construed to mean something like: Dregs Kill, or Death To The Thorn Bush, or perhaps even Death Watches.