🔼The name Siddim: Summary
- Furrows, Divisions, Fields, Demons
- From the verb שדד (sadad), to harrow or plough a field, or the verb שדד (shadad), to act violently.
🔼The name Siddim in the Bible
The Valley of Siddim is a place full of tar pits near the Salt Sea, or perhaps there where the Salt Sea now is, because Siddim is mentioned before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). The Valley of Siddim is where the War of Four Against Five Kings was waged (Genesis 14). King Bera of Sodom and king Birsha of Gomorrah of the overcome pentapolitan coalition, flee and die in the tar pits of Siddim (Genesis 14:10).
🔼Etymology of the name Siddim
The origin of the name Siddim (a plural word) is somewhat dubious but the candidates can all be found in the following word group:
The verb שדד (shadad) means to deal violently with, ruin or destroy. Noun שד (shad) or שוד (shud) means havoc, violence or devastation.
An identical verb, which in the middle ages was pointed slightly different, is שדד (sadad), which describes the harrowing of a field: to act violently upon a field. Whether formally related or not, the noun שדמה (shedema) means field, and nouns שדי (saday) and שדה (sadeh) do too, and may denote either a cultivated field or a wild one, where wild animals live.
Speaking of wild animals, the noun שד (shed) is a loan word but its adoption was probably lubricated by the similar words treated above. It describes a mythological creature, namely the Mesopotamian sedu, a kind of protecting spirit depicted as a winged bull, in essence not unlike the more familiar genius and deamon. Note the similarity between this word שד (shed) and the noun שד (shad), meaning havoc.
Slightly more surprising, a third identically spelled noun, שד (shad), describes the mammalian breast, whether human or animal. This noun is assumed to stem from an unused verb שדה (shadeh), meaning to moisten in cognate language, which is identical to the assumed verb that yields the nouns שדי (saday) and שדה (sadeh), meaning field, suggesting an emphasis on natural irrigation.
In cognate languages, these same nouns also mean [wet] mountain, and beside the link between a moist, fruitful mountain and a milk dispensing breast: milk is dispensed to infants, whereas the belief in supernatural bullies is a mark of an immature mind.
The two most likely candidates are not all that different. One possibility is the verb שדד (sadad), meaning to harrow. The other possibility is the unused root שדה (sdh), which yields the noun שדי (saday), meaning field, land, and שדה (sadeh) field.
BDB Theological Dictionary lists a third possibility, namely a derivation of the word שד (shed), meaning demon. The Valley Of Siddim would then mean the Valley Of Demons.
Note that our word שׁד is spelled with a shin (dot to the right), while שׂדים (Siddim) is spelled with a sin (dot to the left). These dots were put there long after the Torah was written, so in those days these letters were not visually distinguished. But the name of this region came to us through antiquity as Siddim and not as Shiddim. The name Siddim may in fact have more to do with the name Sodom than with this unusual word for (or unusual idea of) demon.
The name Siddim may mean Furrows, Divisions, Fields or Demons. For a meaning of the name Siddim, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Plains. NOBSE Study Bible Name List does not translate.