Although the precise origin of the Hebrew name for Jerusalem, Yerushalayim
remains uncertain, scholars have come up with a variety of interpretations. Some say it means "legacy of peace" — a portmanteau
(legacy) and shalom
(peace). "Shalom" is a cognate of the Hebrew name "Shlomo," i.e., King Solomon," the builder of the First Temple.
Alternatively, the second part of the portmanteau could be Salem
literally "whole" or "in harmony"), an early name for Jerusalem
that appears in the Book of Genesis
Others cite the Amarna letters
, where the Akkadian
name of the city appears as Urušalim
, a cognate of the Hebrew Ir Shalem
. Some believe there is a connection to Shalim
, the beneficent deity known from Ugaritic
myths as the personification of dusk.
interpretation in Genesis Rabba
explains that Abraham
came to the city that was then called Shalem
after rescuing Lot
Upon arrival, he asked the king and high priest Melchizedek
to bless him, and Melchizedek did so in the name of God
(indicating that he, like Abraham, was a monotheist
). This encounter between Melchizedek and Abraham was commemorated by renaming the city in their honor: the name Yeru
(derived from Yireh
, the name Abraham gave to the Temple Mount
) was combined with Shalem
, meaning the "city of Shalem," or "founded by Shalem." If shalem means "complete," or "without defect, " Yerushalayim would mean the "perfect city," or "the city of he who is perfect".
The ending -im
indicates the plural in Hebrew grammar and -ayim
the dual, leading to an interpretation of the name as representing two facets of the city, such as two hills.
The pronunciation of the last syllable as -ayim
appears to be a late development, which had not yet appeared at the time of the Septuagint