🔼The name Sodom: Summary
- Flaming, Burnt
- Furrows, Wet Fields, Demons, Breasts
- Their Assembly
- From an unused verb סדם (sadam), to burn.
- From the verb שדד (sadad), to harrow or plough a field, or the verb שדד (shadad), to act violently.
- From (1) the verb סדד (sadad), to join or יסד (yasad), to assemble, and (2) the pronoun ־מ (-m), their.
🔼The name Sodom in the Bible
Sodom is one of the destroyed cities of the plain near the Salt Sea (the others are Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim; Genesis 19; Deuteronomy 29:23). Before it was swallowed up, it probably was situated in the valley of Siddim (Genesis 14:3).
Sodom extended its hospitality to Lot, the nephew of Abraham, but the men of Sodom famously took their hospitality duties to allow the rape of Lot's visitors (Genesis 19:5). The proverbial "sin of Sodom," however, was not, as is often understood, of a sexual nature but rather that it had "abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16:49).
In the New Testament the name Sodom (Σοδομα, Sodoma) appears either in illustrative recounts of the old story (Luke 17:29, 2 Peter 2:6, Jude 1:7) or else is evoked to illustrate sin that's bad nonetheless but still royally surpassed by the generation of Christ (Matthew 10:15, 11:23). The name Sodom appears 10 times in the New Testament; see full New Testament concordance.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Sodom
Most sources refer to an unused verb סדם (sadam) or even שדם (shadam) meaning to burn. The city's name is rendered by Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names as Flaming, and by NOBSE Study Bible Name List as Burnt.
Because the letters samekh (ס) and sin (שׂ) are somewhat similar in sound, they have been known to interchange. Hence BDB Theological Dictionary suggests relations with the name שׂדים, Siddim. The name Siddim is also very difficult to interpret but it may have to do with the word שד:
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 daemon. 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.
Thus the name Sodom may also mean Furrows, Divisions, Fields, Demons, Breasts.
Much more convincing and enticing, however, is a possible link between our name Sodom סדם and the root סדד (sadad), to join:
Probably deriving from an unused verb סדד (sadad), to join, the verb יסד (yasad) means to assemble into the foundation of a societal structure: a temple or assembly, a nation or a government. Nouns יסד (yesud), יסוד (yesod), יסודה (yesuda), מוסד (musad), מוסדה (musada), מוסד (mosad) and מסד (massad) all mean foundation or assembly.
The noun סוד (sod) means assembly and may denote an assembly of friends or schemers or a formal assembly, a council. This word is often combined with words that denote secrecy and exclusivity.
Noun סד (sad) denotes a set of shackles to bind someone's feet with, and certain members of a society that's trying to make a transition from government by brute force to one of diplomacy and debate may very well complain that joining a council of talkers rather slows a person down.
Noun סדין (sadin) denotes a linen wrapper or cloak and was probably a mark of the wealthy class and thus the ruling elite.
The post-fixed letter מ (mem) may be due to a third person masculine possessive pronoun: their, and the name Sodom may very well mean Their Assembly, and relate to a kleptocratic or plutocratic government; something that was both wholly foreign and utterly detestable to the Israelites. The proverbial "sin of Sodom" is of course rather rampant in our modern age, and the fate of our modern governments will not be unlike that of Sodom (Revelation 18:2).