Allah Is The “Rimmon” Of Syria? A Reply To Christian Mendacity

A missionary under the Yahoo! Groups nome de plume of “Patriot Tim” has made an allegation in a discussion group by stating that the Syrian pagan idol Rimmon () as mentioned in 2 Kings 5:18 is the same Deity as for the Muslims, who sometimes call upon God as ar-rahman (The Merciful). To repeat the missionary’s claim:

    The verse in question is II Kings 5:18, and the words were spoken by Naaman the Syrian general who had just been healed of his leprosy by Elisha the prophet[….] We see Naaman saying that, because of his position of importance to the king of Syria, he would be required to enter and bow to Rimmon in that deity’s temple in Damascus. Thus, we see that RIMMON is found in the Bible.

This article is more or less an improvement from the original response we had offered and is intended to deeply address the issue of Rimmon, insha’allah.

Is Rimmon really “Rahman”?

On the issue of “Rahman”, the missionary argues that:

    Rahman, as indicated to us in the Qu’ran, Surah 17:110, is another name for All?h. Hence, we see that there is a definite connexion, linguistic and otherwise, between the Rimmon who was worshipped all throughout Syria, Paddan-Aram, Assyria, and the rest of the northern Fertile Crescent, and Rahman, or Allah.

We believe that we have had tolerated enough of this shoddy scholarship, and now is the time to blast this missionary to kingdom come. The reality is that one does not need the source(s) that he dutifully parrots from Christian polemicists like Dr. Robert Morey, as The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon and William Gesenius’ Hebrew and English Lexicon are all good enough authorities on the etymology.

As we have earlier stated, the name of this Syrian pagan idol Rimmon appears in 2 Kings 5:18. This verse is as follows:

May the Lord forgive your servant in this matter: when my master enters the house of Rimmon to worship there, supported by my hand, and I have to bow myself down in the house of RIMMON; when I have to bow myself down thus in the house of RIMMON, may the Lord forgive your servant in this matter.

According to Gesenius, the Hebrew word “rimmon” actually means “pomegranate,” and the Arabic equivalent is “rumman”, which is quite similar to the Hebrew and shares the same R-M-N cognate1. The following image would clearly illustrate this relation:

“Pomegranate” is thus the proper translation of “rimmon” in the Bible (Numbers 20:5; Deuteronomy 8:8; 1 Samuel 14:12; Songs 4:3, 6:7). ‘Rimmon’ is also the name of a number of places mentioned in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, named such because of the number of pomegranates that grow there. As Gesenius states:

The pomegranate tree is still found in Syria, Palestine, and Egypt […] From their abounding in pomegranates, several places received the proper name Rimmon[.]2

Examples of such places being named ‘Rimmon’ can be seen in Joshua 15:32, 19:7; Judges 20:47; 1 Chronicles 4:32 and Zechariah 14:10. Indeed, until today there is a specific place in Palestine called Rimmon (reysh-mem-vav-nun) in Hebrew, and Rammwan/Rummon (raa-meem-waw-nun) in Arabic, and it still exists today.

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We can see that Rammwan/Rummon is thus the closest Arabic equivalent to the Hebrew “rimmon”, and not “Rahman” as Patriot Tim erroneously asserts.

Referring to Strong’s on RIMMON, the following entry is found:

4. A Syrian god (7417)[3]

The B-D-B Lexicon has more information on RIMMON, and on p. 942 we read that:

[Rimmon] n. pr. dei; as Rammanu, god of wind, rain and storm; thunder; storm.[4]

There are two possible etymological explanations for the RIMMON of Syria. The first is from Gesenius, who says that it is “…perhaps the exalted, from the root RMM.”[5] The other possibility is that the spelling is a deliberate Jewish insult, and this is not uncommon in the Bible. We read that

“Rimmon” is an epithet of Hadad (Adad in Mesopotamia); the Akkadian form is Ram(m)an. It has been suggested that the Hebrew Rimmon, which is identical to the Hebrew word for “pomegranate,” is a deliberate mispointing of an original Ram(m)an (or something similar) to disparage the deity. This epithet Rimmon/Ramman is best understood as “thunderer” (cf. Akkadian ramanu “to roar,” hence “to thunder”). Accordingly, the name Hadadrimmon means “Hadad is the thunderer.” Hadad, or Rimmon/Ramman, was the chief diety of the Arameans of Syria[.][6]

In light of Jewish traditions with disparaging name-games in Hebrew, we favour the possibility that calling the Syrian pagan idol as RIMMON was merely an attempt at insulting this pagan deity, and have no connections with “rimmon” meaning “pomegranate”.

This is already enough to refute the missionary’s mendacity. But let us take one step further and look up the meaning of the Arabic ar-rahman, as stated in Hans Wehr’s Arabic-English Dictionary:

ar-rahman : the Merciful (i.e. God)[7]

The root of ar-rahman is the word rahma, and from the very same page, we find that the root means:

pity, compassion; human understanding, sympathy, kindness; mercy[8]

Clearly, we certainly do not see any etymological relation at all with the Hebrew noun RIMMON (). Indeed, one does not blindly assume that a word is connected to another simply by the play of sounds, and we need to look at several established rules for finding etymological connections. The rules are:

  • 1. Geographic proximity
  • 2. Shared cognates/roots
  • 3. Relative synonymy

So what does this mean? It means that the languages have to originate near one another, and indeed Hebrew and Arabic are from the same branch and area. They have to share the same cognate, and lastly, they have to share the same meaning. While we do not deny that the Hebrew noun Rimmon conforms with criteria 1, it does not conform with criterias 2 and 3, and hence fails the ruling for determining whether RIMMON is indeed related to the Arabic word ar-rahman. As one of the greatest Philosophers of Language (one of the founding fathers of the field), Ludwig Wittgenstein, put it:

The meaning of a word is its use in the language.[9]

The equivalent word for ar-rahman in the Hebrew would be “Ha-Rachman”, as found in Rivlin’s Hebrew translation of the Qur’an, 1:1:


    In the name of God, Ha-Rachman, the Merciful3
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Apparently this title is not alien to the South Arabian Christians, for Philip K. Hitti informs us the following:

The earlier South Arabian civilization could not have altogether passed away without leaving some trace in its northern successor. The inscription (542-3) of Abrahah dealing wih the break of the Ma’rib Dam begins with the following words: “In the power and grace and mercy of the Merciful [Rahman-an] and His Messiah and of the Holy Spirit”. The word Rahman-an is especially significant because its northern equivalent, al-Rahman, became later a prominent attribute of All?h and one of His names in the Koran and in Islamic theology.[11]

Philip K. Hitti further informs us in a footnote that:

Rahmanan appears as title of the Christian God in a fifth-century South Arabic inscription.[12]

So we see that the South Arabic Christians themselves using the appelation Rahmanan for their God, and hence we begin to see how perjurious the claims of the missionary really is.

The Aramaic word for Rachaman/Rahman is rachamanaa, and indeed this is found in the Talmud. Consider the Aramaic text of Qiddushin 81b, where it is recommended that those looking to be protected from evil say:

Rachamanaa nighar beih ba-Satan
Translation: May the Most Merciful rebuke Satan.

In the same part of the Talmud, there is a fascinating story about Rabbi Chiyya:

Rabbi Chiyya bar Ashi hawah raghil kal eedan dahawah nafal l’apeih hawah amar: ha-Rachaman yatsileinu miyetser haraa’
Translation: Rabbi Chiyya bar Ashi had a practice where everytime he prostrated he would say “may the Most Merciful save us from evil inclinations”.

So, even the great Talmud sages were doing as the Muslims do to this day, prostrating and giving homage to the Most Merciful, ar-rahman. This passage from the Talmud is still relevant, as there is yet one more point to be made here. Later in the story Rabbi Chiyya is tempted by his wife, who asks him to bring him a pomegranate. She is quoted as saying:

aiytei neehaleih l’hakh rumanaa d’reish tsutsitaa shawur aazal
Translation: Bring me that pomegranate on the uppermost branch.

The word for pomegranate in the Aramaic is rumanaa, which is quite close to the Arabic rumman. What we learn from this is that in Hebrew, Arabic and even Aramaic (from this look at Qiddushin 81b), there is no connection between the word for “Most Merciful” — a name given to God — and pomegranate, a name heaped upon a pagan deity.

This is further collaborated when we refer to the root word of ha-rachman, which is rachuwm, in Strong’s number 7349 and find the following:

    rachuwm rakh-oom`; from 7355; compassionate:- full of compassion, merciful.4
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Thus we see that rachuwm and rahma share the same R-H-M cognate, and thus we have established a solid etymological connection between both words. Of course, there is another Hebrew word that is even closer to raheem (RHYM) than rachuwm is, and that is the exact Hebrew equivalent! Consider the following:

Summarization

As the final nail in the coffin, let us summarise what we have discussed above:

1) RIMMON is a Syrian pagan god of thunder and the name itself is a noun and has nothing in common with ar-rahman, which is an attribute/appellation of God, as any Muslim schoolchild would know.

2) RIMMON has its roots in the Akkadian Rammanu, meaning “thunderer” or “to roar, to thunder” and its only connection to the “pomegranate” (rimmon) is that this is part of a deliberate Jewish insult against this pagan idol. “Rahman” came from a totally different root word, rahma, which means “pity; compassion; sympathy”, etc.

3) RIMMON is the Syrian “god of wind, rain and storm”. By no stretch of imagination can this be applied to Allah, the God of Abraham(P), Moses(P), Jesus(P) and Muhammad(P)! Further, we have seen how the South Arabian Christians themselves use the appelation Rahman-an (equivalent to the northern ar-Rahman) for God, and how the Aramaic phrase Rachamanaa is found in the Jewish Talmud.

4) Nowhere in Strong’s or in the BDB/Gesenius lexicons do we find any correlation of RIMMON with the Arabic word ar-rahman or its root word rahma. The Hebrew equivalent for rahma is the word rachuwm. Both rahma (Ar.) and rachuwm (Heb.) share the same R-H-M cognate.

Conclusion

It is evident that the missionary “Patriot Tim” clearly resorts to nonsensical and shoddy scholarship in order to discredit Islam, no matter how silly the ‘theories’ that he repeats. We suggest that “Patriot Tim” should stick to his current daytime occupation instead of trying to pass himself off as some sort of etymologist-cum-archeologist and parroting verbatim from monolingual polemicists like Morey.

And only God knows best.

References

[2] William Gesenius, Op. Cit., p. 982

[3] James Strong, The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, under the word “RIMMON”

[4] Under , The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 942

[5] William Gesenius, Op. Cit.

[6] Frederic W. Bush, “HadadRimmon”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (Doubleday 1992), Vol. 3, p. 13

[7] J. M. Cowan (ed.), Hans Wehr’s Arabic-English Dictionary, p. 332

[8] Ibid.

[9] Wittgenstein, Philophische Untersuchungen, pt. I, sect. 43

[10] Yosef Yo’el Rivlin, Alkur’an / tirgem me-`Arvit, Devir, Tel Aviv (1936-1945)

[11] Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, The Macmillan Press, Ltd (1970), p. 105

[12] Ibid.

[13]

Footnotes

  1. William Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon, (Crocker & Brewster, 1865), p. 982; c.f. J. M. Cowan (ed.), Hans Wehr’s Arabic-English Dictionary, p. 360 []
  2. William Gesenius, op. cit., p. 982 []
  3. Yosef Yo’el Rivlin, Alkur’an / tirgem me-`Arvit, Devir, Tel Aviv (1936-1945) []
  4. James Strong, op. cit, under the word “rachuwm”, p. 131 []

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