What is the meaning of the name "Jerusalem"?


"Jerusalem" is composed of two Hebrew words, "yireh," and "salem." Experts do not fully agree on the meanings of these words or of the resulting combination.

Some experts suggest that the first half of the name could be derived from the Hebrew words "yara," meaning to throw, or "yoreh," meaning rain. In contrast, others refer to the story in the Bible in which Abraham named the mountain on which he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. He referred to the mountain as "God will see," using the Hebrew word "yirah," meaning "will see." That mountain is believed to be located at the site of present-day Jerusalem.

The second half of the word Jerusalem is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, when Abraham met Melchizedek, the King of Salem. "Salem" is close to the Hebrew word "shalom," which means "peace. Combining the different roots, it is possible that Jerusalem means "Rain of Peace."

The Midrash, a collection of Jewish explanations about scripture, suggests that Melchizedek may actually have been Shem, the second son of Noah, from whom the nation of Israel is derived. In Rabbah 56:10, the Midrash states: "Said the Holy One, blessed be He, "If I call the place Yireh like Abraham did, the righteous Shem will complain. However if I refer to it as Shalem, the righteous Abraham will complain. Rather, I will call it Yerushalayim, and that name will contain the way it was called by both of them: Yireh Shalem."

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