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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


(Heb. Tsalmon', צִלְמוֹן , shady; Sept. Σελμών v.r. Σελλών, etc.; Vulg. Selmon), the name of a man and of a hill.

1. An Ahohite, one of David's warriors (2 Samuel 23:28), called in the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 11:29) ILAI (See ILAI) (q.v.), which Kennicott prefers (Dissert. p. 187). (See DAVID).

2. A mountain (הִר ) or wooded eminence in the immediate neighborhood of Shechem, from which Abimelech and his people cut down the boughs with which he suffocated and burned the Shechemites who had taken refuge in the citadel (Judges 9:48). The reading of the Sept. here ( ῾Ερμών ) is remarkable both in itself and in the fact that the two great MSS, agree in a reading so much removed from the Hebrew; but it is impossible to suppose that Hermnon (at any rate, the well-known mountain of that name) is referred to in the narrative nofAbimelech. The rabbins mention a place of the same name, but evidently far from the necessary position (Schwarz, Palest. p. 137). The name Suleimijeh is attached to the S.E. portion of Mount Ebal (see the map of Dr. Rosen, Zeitschr. der deutschen morgenl. Gesell. 14:634), and Jebel Sleiman is the name of a high conspicuous summit S.W. of and linked with Mount Gerizim, having on it a tomb attributed by Mohammedan tradition to Sleiman el-Earsi (Van de Velde, Memoir, p. 354). The only high mountains around Shechem are Ebal and Gerizim, and Zalmon may be another name for one of these. The name of Dalmanutha has beensupposed by some to be a corruption of that of Tsalmon (Otho, Lex. Rabb. s.v. "Dalmanutha").

It is usually supposed that this hill is mentioned in Psalms 68:14 (A.V. "Salmon"); and this is probable, though the passage is peculiarly difficult, and the precise allusion intended by the poet seems hopelessly lost. Commentators differ from each other; and Fü rst, within 176 pages of his Handworterbuch, differs from himself ( שֶׁלֶג and צִלְמון ). Indeed, of six distinguished modern commentators De Wette, Hitzig, Ewald, Heigstenberg, Delitzsch, and Hupfeld no two give distinctly the same meaning; and Mr. Keble, in his admirable version of the Psalms, gives a translation which, though poetical, as was to be expected, differs from any one of those suggested by these six scholars. . The literal translation of the words תִּשְׁלֵג בְּצִלְמוֹן is "Thou wouldst make it snow," or "It would snow," with liberty to use the verb either in the past or in the future sense. As, notwithstanding ingenious attempts, this supplies no satisfactory meaning, recourse is had to a translation of a comparative character, "Thou makest it white as snow," or "It is white as snow" words to which various metaphorical meanings have been attributed. The allusion which, through the Lexicon of Gesenius, is most generally received is that the phrase refers to the ground being snow-white with bones after a defeat of the Canaanitish kings, and this may be accepted by those who will admit that bleaching bones would be left upon a battle-field. At the same time, it is to be remembered that the figure is a very harsh one, and that it is not really justified by passages quoted in illustration of it from Latin classical writers, such as "campique ingentes sibus albent" (Virgil, -En. 12:36) and "humanis ossiIbus albet humus" (Ovid, Fast. 1, 558), for in these cases the worn "bones" is actually used in the text, and is not left to be supplied by the imagination. Granted, however, that an allusion is made to bones of the slain, there is a divergence of opinion as to whether Salmon was mentioned simply because it had been the battle-ground of some great defeat of the Canaanitish kings, or whether it is only introduced as an image of snowy whiteness.

Of these two explanations, the first would be, on the whole, most probable; for Salmon cannot have been a very high mountain, as the highest mountains near Shechem are Ebal and (Gerizim, and of these Ebal, the highest of the two, is only 1028 feet higher than the city (see Robinson's Gesezius, p. 895 a). If the poet had desired to use the image of a snowy mountain, it would have been more natural to select Hermon, which is visible from the eastern brow of Gerizim, is about 10,000 feet high, and is covered with perpetual snow. Still it is not meant that this circumstance by itself would be conclusive, for there may have been particular associations in the mind of the poet unknown to us which led him to prefer Salmon Smith. It is perhaps not too great a stretch of fancy in this highly figurative Psalm to suppose that the hill in question, being near Shechem, in the center of the country, may have been (or conceived as being) the scene of a severe engagement in the conquest of Canaan; and the prostrate bodies of the slain foe, covered with their white Oriental garments, are pictured like snow upon the distant background of the dark mountain-side. The use of the Heb future points out the conceptual character of the statement, and justifies the translation as a metaphor, "It seemed to snow."

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Zaimon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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