|Lehite PN||Apostate, late 6th or early 5th c. BC (Jacob 7:1, 7)|
This PN looks like a segholate from the root šrm, but the root does not exist in Hebrew (JH). It is unlikely that it is a secondary development from the Š-stem of rām, because the Š-stem was no longer a recognized stem in Hebrew by Lehi’s day.115
The ketiv of Jeremiah 31:40 (KJV; Tanach verse 39) is šrmōt, which the LXX transliterates ʾasaremo. The qere is šdēmōt. The ketiv would appear to be a hapax legomenon, and therefore, unexplainable. However, see Arabic šrm/srm, “to cleave, cut,” which would suggest the meaning of “ploughed fields” for the biblical passage (RFS). This root could provide an appropriate derivation for a PN.
Much less likely are the following suggestions:
A Hebrew form *šōrem might be postulated on the evidence of Arabic surm, “anus.” Though an unlikely name for a man, his character would certainly prompt some contemporary readers to make the name fit (JAT).
Unlikely is biblical srn, “tyrant, lord,” used of the chiefs of the Philistine cities, and attested in Ugarit. The shift from s to š and n to m are not impossible, but rather implausible (JH).
Though the KJV GN Shaaraim, “Two Gaits,” looks like it might provide the derivation for Sherem (Reynolds, Story of the Book of Mormon, p. 296), the Hebrew, šaʿarayim, contains a consonant that Sherem does not contain, and the -ayim is the dual ending, which could contract to -em. But it would make the name also a dual and an unlikely PN.
It is unlikely that by metathesis the biblical PN Shemer (Hebrew šemer, “watch, vigil,” the eponymous owner of Samaria, 1 Kg. 16:24) could become Sherem (JH).
Also unlikely is a composit from Hebrew šeʾar, “remnant,” and ʿam, “people,” patterned after biblical PN šeʾar yāšūb, “a remnant shall return,” in Isaiah 7:3 (= 1 Nephi 17:3). The vowels of *šeʾarʿam would not easily shift to [e] because of the ayin, neither would it be easy to delete one of the two vowels in šeʾar.
Impossible (JAT, RFS) is the suggestion that the consonant ḥ shifted to š, yielding ḥerem which in Hebrew can refer to that which is prohibited, or to excommunication, an apt category given the events in Jacob 7 (GT). No such consonant shift within a Semitic language, including Hebrew is known. It is true that Semitic ḥ is sometimes transliterated as š in Coptic (a late form of Egyptian), usually from Egyptian ḥ, but it would be difficult to imagine why the Lehites would transliterate a Hebrew name into late Egyptian written with Greek characters (JAT, RFS).
Nearly impossible (PYH) is the suggestion that Sherem comes from the AssyroBabylonian moon-god šerum used in the Neo-Assyrian PN še-r:-ši-ti-ri-i, “Sherem is my shelter/refuge” (with anaptyxis), in contraction. Neolate Babylonian has the PN dšēr:-id-ri, “Sherum is my help” (R. Zadok, BASOR 231:74b) (RFS). The name would simply be dšēr; the -um is the masculine nominative singular ending and does not belong to the root. Thus the m on Sherem would remain unexplained.
The observation has also been made that Sherem may not be Lehite or Mulekite. The argument goes that the phrase “there came a man among the people of Nephi” who “had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people” (Jacob 7:1 & 4, respectively) indicates a person who had not been among the Nephites before and who had acquired a masterful knowledge of a language he had not previously had. If this conjecture is true, then his name may or may not be Lehite. And if the name is not Lehite or Mulekite, then searching for a Semitic root may be futile.
Cf. Book of Mormon SHELEM
115 It is possible for the Lehites or Mulekites to have brought the name, in a frozen form, from the Old World. If this happened, the vowels of sherem resemble the
vowels of the regular Hebrew hiphil stem, and not the normal ša of the Š-stem. Ugaritic has the root šrm from the Š-stem of rām, 2 Aqht VI:15, tšrm, “she raises” (RFS).