🔼The name Zamzummim: Summary
- Schemers, The Devised Against
- From the verb זמם (zamam), to scheme.
🔼The name Zamzummim in the Bible
The Zamzummim were a race of giants, who are mentioned only once in the Bible, namely in Deuteronomy 2:20, where we learn that the Ammonites used to call them that, but to the Hebrews these guys were known as the Rephaim. These Zamzummim were a people as great, numerous and tall as the Anakim, but YHWH destroyed them so that the Ammonites could move into their territory. The Ammonites, after all, were descendants of Lot, who was the nephew of Abraham and that obviously counted for much in the Biblical arena.
Why the Ammonites insisted on calling these extinct Rephaim Zamzummim isn't explained. What also isn't explained is why the NAS calls them Zamzummin (with an "n" at the end), or why the KJV called them Zamzummims (which redundantly combines the Hebrew masculine plural "-im" with the English plural "-s"). The NIV, slick as always, calls them Zamzummites, but that particular transliteration is common for ethnonyms that are adjectives and therefore end with a י (yod), like ישראלי, or yisraeli, which we call Israelites. In Hebrew these people were called זמזמים, Zamzummim, which is a common plural; one of them would be called a זמזם, Zamzum.
Some scholars have proposed that the Zamzummim are the same as the Zuzim mentioned in Genesis 14:5, but that is probably incorrect. See our article on the name Zuzim name for our argumentation of this position.
🔼Etymology of the name Zamzummim
The name Zamzummim comes from a noun which dictionaries don't normally list because it doesn't occur in the Bible. Scholars suspect that it existed in Hebrew because it does in Arabic, and it Arabic it denotes the talking of nonsense. The verb from which this Arabic noun derives means to speak or talk, and the noun is formed by repeating the verb; as such it's probably comparable to our term "bla-bla".
However, the Hebrew version of this Arabic verb, זמם (zamam), doesn't mean to speak or talk, but to plan or scheme, and that usual with detrimental effect:
The verb זמם (zamam) means to scheme or devise and that usually in a bad way, i.e. planning or concocting to destroy or pervert something. Nouns זמם (zamam) and זמה (zimma) mean plan or scheme to destroy or pervert. Noun מזמה (mezimma) denotes a place or agent of זמה (zimma), i.e. a collection of evil plans or a malicious campaign.
The unused Hebrew noun זמזם (zamzum) comes from the verb זמם (zamam) the way the noun בקבק (baqbuq), meaning flask comes from the verb בקק (baqaq I), meaning to be empty. Or the way the name Calcol (כלכל), possibly meaning Sustenance, comes from the verb כול (kul), meaning to sustain. Or somewhat similar: the way the adjective יפה־פיה (yepeh-piya) meaning pretty, comes from the verb יפה (yapa), meaning to be beautiful. A repetition like this has in Hebrew the function of forming a reflective diminutive. Our noun זמזם (zamzum) would have denoted an entity that had experienced someone else's planning or scheming, particularly the Lord's.
For a meaning of the name Zamzummim, NOBSE Study Bible Name List takes the Arabic perspective and reads Murmurers. Likewise Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes Tribes Making A Noise. And BDB Theological Dictionary suggests Talk Gibberish, but adds a question mark to indicate uncertainty.
Here at Abarim Publications we believe that the name Zamzummim means The Dealt With or The Devised Against. Remember that Zamzummim was the Ammonite name for the Rephaim, whose name denotes the healing from a disease: The Healed From.