This word presents an interesting study in its unique origins, and in its unique journey into the Teutonic languages. The etymology appears historically in Akkadian and Hebrew, and its transfer exclusively to Teutonic suggests that other factors may affect how it was used in both the original languages and in the ensuing languages.
Three major related words appear in Hebrew, with four main meanings:
Related words in Akkadian are
I have been unable to determine how the dama = resemble or the other words derived from dam = red. A relationship must exist, understood by the ancient people, that now escapes us. However, the dama = cease, dami = pause, rest, and quiet, and damam = dumb, silent and still are related by simple semantic relationship. The one word then came into the Teutonic languages for that singular use only.
|Dumb = silent, speechless, dull, stupid.||Dama =
Dami = silence,
Damma = one silenced, destroyed
Compare Old Norse dumbr, Gothic dumbs, Old Saxon dumb, German dumm. Anglo Saxon dumb; akin to Danish dom = stupid, dumb, Swedish dumb and Old Norse forms meant only mute, speechless. In Old English dumb = silent, unable to speak; in Old High German (thumb) it meant both this and stupid.
These diverse applications suggest as the original sense such notion as "stupid," "not understanding," which might pass naturally either into "deaf" or "dumb."
1. lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.
2. lacking the power of speech (often offensive when applied to humans): a dumb animal.
3. temporarily unable to speak: dumb with astonishment.
4. refraining from any or much speech; silent.
5. made, done, etc., without speech.
6. lacking some usual property, characteristic, etc.
7. performed in pantomime; mimed.
from natural infirmity (Ex. 4:11); not knowing what to say (Prov. 31:8); unwillingness to speak (Ps. 39:9; Lev. 10:3).
דָּמָה = cease, cause to cease, cut off, destroy
1. cease Je 14:17 (eyes from weeping) La 3:49 (id.)
2. cause to cease, cut off, destroy, Israel: Je 6:2; Ho 4:5.
3. Je 47:5; Ez 32:2; Ho 10:7; be cut off, destroyed, ruined, of a city Is 15:1, Je 47:5; of people Ho 4:6, Zp 1:11
דֳּמִי cessation, pause, quiet, rest;
— 1. quiet, Is 62:6 keep not quiet (let there be no quiet to you); in prayer to God ψ 83:2 keep not quiet
דָּמַם = be or grow dumb, silent, still
ψ 35:15 Jb 30:27; Am 5:13
3. be silent ψ 4:5; Ez 24:17 Lv 10:3 Am 5:13; in grief La 2:10; 3:28.
4. be still Jb 31:34; = perish Je 8:14; 48:2 ψ 31:18; be silent to i.e. be resigned to ψ 37:7; 62:6.
The root under consideration is used almost exclusively in prophetical books or context. Thus, the verb is found outside this genre only in2 Sam 21:5 and Ps 49:12,20 . The verb means to come to an end, but it is always a violent end that is indicated: Isa 15:1; Jer 47:5; Hos 4:5-6; 10:15.
In a different context, however, this verb is used by Jeremiah in his aspiration that his tears shed for his people not "cease" (Jer 14:17; cf. Lam 3:49). Isaiah also uses the verb (in the Niphal perfect) in his familiar, "Woe is me for I am 'undone'" (Isa 6:5).
damâ is used seventeen times in the OT and twelve of these are in the Niphal stem.
Rest, silence, occurs four times: Isa 62:6-7; Ps 83:1; Isa 38:10.
damam is cognate to the Ugaritic dmm "be silent." It occurs twenty-nine times in the Qal, and five times in the Niphal. It is found primarily in poetry.
damam is often found in a context of catastrophe and mourning. Aaron and Ezekiel had to keep quiet in spite of the death of loved ones (Lev 10:3; Ezek 24:17). The elders of Judah sit silently with dust on their heads (Lam 2:10). Sometimes the notion of stress is absent, however, as in Job 29:21.
Judgment upon nations brings the meaning close to "destroy. " The cities of Moab (Jer 48:2) and the island fortress of Tyre (Ezek 27:32) are silenced, and men of war are brought to the silence of death. Jeremiah applies this to the troops of Damascus (Jer 49:26) and Babylon (Jer 50:30; cf. Isa 23:2). The only Hiphil use of the verb refers to the Lord dooming Israel (Jer 8:14). The wicked (1 Sam 2:9; Ps 31:17 [H* 181) and the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex 15:16) are also silenced in death.
List of References
BDB: Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951. Now available electronically from Logos Bible Software, as Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic edition, Logos Research Systems, Oak Harbor, WA, 2000.
SEC: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, J. Strong, Abingdon Press, New York, 1890. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.
OED: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971. Now available on line from Online Subscription Department, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Moody Press, 1980. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.
Klein: Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English, The University of Haifa, Jerusalem, 1987.
The Word: Isaac Mozeson, SPI Books, New York, 1989
I offer no references for words that come from various other languages, and that can be traced by browsing the World Wide Web.