🔼The name Tema: Summary
- South Country
- From the root ימן (ymn), which has to do with the right hand side and the southern direction.
🔼The name Tema in the Bible
The name Tema belongs to one man and one country, although it seems plausible that the country was named after the man.
Tema the man was one of the twelve sons of Ishmael and apart from that fact, nothing is known about him (Genesis 25:15 and 1 Chronicles 1:30).
Tema the country was located in Arabia. Job mentioned caravans from Tema clumping through a parched desert along with travelers from Sheba (Job 6:19), and similarly, in his oracle concerning Arabia, Isaiah calls out for the people of Tema to bring water for the thirsty (Isaiah 21:14).
The prophet Jeremiah lists Tema along with Buz and Dedan among those who cut the corners (probably of their hair) and along many more nations which will be made to drink from the cup of the wrath of YHWH (Jeremiah 25:23).
🔼Etymology of the name Tema
The name Tema probably has to do with the root ימן (ymn), or is an Aramaic or even transliterated Arabic equivalent of it, or even a foreign variant of the name Teman, which in the Bible is assigned to the line of Edom (Genesis 36:11):
The root ימן (ymn) is of unclear pedigree and meaning but it has to do with both the right hand side and the southern direction, which are both decidedly positive (whereas left and north have negative connotations). This also indicates that one normally faces east, which corresponds to the past.
Noun ימין (yamin) means right, i.e. right hand, side or the right of other parts of the body. Adjective ימיני (yemini) meaning on the right. Verb ימן (yaman) means to go or choose the right or use the right hand. Adjective ימני (yemani) meaning right hand or right. Noun תימן (teman) meaning south.
For a meaning of the name Tema, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads a rather far-fetched Sunburnt. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Desert, which is also not too accurate.
BDB Theological Dictionary does not list our name under the root ימן (ymn) but still seems to endorse an etymology from it, and translates it with South Country.