Theophoric names for women? (Miryam)

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Sun Dec 19 18:58:24 EST 1999

If "Miryam" is theophoric with the element "-yam", what is the first 
part of the word? Neither MRY = "be rebellious" or MRR = "be bitter" 
seem likely Semitic roots, I suppose MWR = "change" would just be 
possible. But perhaps we should look elsewhere, remembering that 
Miryam was born in Egypt.

I know very little Egyptian, but this might help: "Mery-" (or just the 
consonants MRY) is a common component of New Kingdom Egyptian personal 
names, meaning "beloved of". For example, "Meryamun", "beloved of 
Amun", was one of the names of Rameses II, the traditional Pharaoh of 
the time of Miryam. So could "Miryam" mean "beloved of Yam"? Or is it 
simply a contraction of "Meryamun" or something of the sort? Similarly 
"Moshe" could be the Egyptian suffix "-mose" = "son of" used with 
theophoric names e.g. Thutmose, Rameses. "Aharon" might even include 
the falcon god's name Hor or Horus - also the name given to the 
mountain where Aaron died. No doubt the unacceptable pagan theophoric 
elements would have been dropped or modified among pious Israelites.

Of course "Miryam" was probably originally, before a regular sound 
shift in Hebrew, "Maryam" as in LXX and Arabic, and hence "Maria" and 

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Theophoric names for women?
Author:  <npl at> at Internet 
Date:    19/12/1999 11:06

> I forgot that. Then zbl as an epithet of Yam could strengthen the claim 
> that Miryam is
> a theophoric name containing the epithet Yam. 
> --
> Jonathan D. Safren
> Dept. of Biblical Studies
> Beit Berl College
> Beit Berl Post Office 44905
> Israel
     [Niels Peter Lemche]  Which is interesting in connection with Exod


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