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Meaning of TAM in Hebrew

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2008-03-31 For April


“tam” is short for “tam-o’-shanter” (ÇtQm«ÈSQnt«) n a Scottish brimless wool cap with a bobble in the centre, usually worn pulled down at one side. Also called tam, tammy [C19: named after the hero of Burns’ poem Tam o’ Shanter (1790)]




8535 תָּם [tam /tawm/] adj. From 8552; TWOT 2522c; GK 9447; 13 occurrences; AV translates as “perfect” nine times, “undefiled” twice, “plain” once, and “upright” once. 1 perfect, complete. 1a complete, perfect. 1a1 one who lacks nothing in physical strength, beauty, etc. 1b sound, wholesome. 1b1 an ordinary, quiet sort of person. 1c complete, morally innocent, having integrity. 1c1 one who is morally and ethically pure.

From 8552 above: 8552 תָּמַם [tamam /taw·mam/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 2522; GK 9462; 64 occurrences; AV translates as “consume” 26 times, “end” nine times, “finished” four times, “clean” three times, “upright” three times, “spent” three times, “perfect” twice, “done” twice, “failed” twice, “accomplish” twice, and translated miscellaneously eight times. 1 to be complete, be finished, be at an end. 1a (Qal). 1a1 to be finished, be completed. 1a1a completely, wholly, entirely (as auxiliary with verb). 1a2 to be finished, come to an end, cease. 1a3 to be complete (of number). 1a4 to be consumed, be exhausted, be spent. 1a5 to be finished, be consumed, be destroyed. 1a6 to be complete, be sound, be unimpaired, be upright (ethically). 1a7 to complete, finish. 1a8 to be completely crossed over. 1b (Niphal) to be consumed. 1c (Hiphil). 1c1 to finish, complete, perfect. 1c2 to finish, cease doing, leave off doing. 1c3 to complete, sum up, make whole. 1c4 to destroy (uncleanness). 1c5 to make sound. 1d (Hithpael) to deal in integrity, act uprightly.

From TWOT 2522c above: 2522     תָּמַם (tāmam) be complete.


2522a     תֹּם (tōm) integrity.

2522b     תֻּמָּה (tūmmâ) integrity.

2522c     תָּם (tām) perfect.(See tam perfect below)

2522d     תָּמִים (tāmı̂m) complete.

2522e     מְתֹם (mĕtōm) entirety.

tāmam may assume an auxiliary function, e.g. in Josh 3:16 the literal rendering, “They were complete, they were cut off,” represents, “They were completely cut off.”

With the verb’s fundamental idea of completeness, Samuel inquired of Jesse, “Are here all (Heb hătammû) thy children?” (I Sam 16:11). Cf. tāmı̂m (the root tāmam’s most common derivative), describing an entire day (Josh 10:13) or a whole, and therefore healthy, vine (Ezk 15:5). mĕtōm indicates soundness of flesh (Ps 38:3). tāmı̂m delimits Israel’s sacrifices, which were to be without blemish, perfect in that respect, so as to be accepted (Lev 22:21–22) as types of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God (I Pet 1:19). Speech which is tāmı̂m (Amos 5:10) corresponds to “what is complete, entirely in accord with truth and fact” (BDB, p. 1071). Elihu was enabled to assure Job, “My words are not false; one who is perfect (tāmı̂m) is with you” (Job 36:4), because of his inspiration by God, who is perfect (tāmı̂m) in knowledge (37:16, cf. 32:8, 18; 33:4). In the fullest sense it is Yahweh’s acts (Deut 32:4; II Sam 22:31 = Ps 18:30 [H 31] and law (Ps 19:7 [H 8]) that are perfect.

tāmam moves naturally toward that which is ethically sound, upright (Ps 19:13 [H 14]). The “perfect” (tāmı̂m) decision, as made by lots, is the correct one (I Sam 14:41). As made by men, it is the right one (Jud 9:16, 19). Asaph praised the completeness (tōm) or integrity of King David’s heart (Ps 78:72). tāmam is used with the commandments of God meaning to fulfill them (Josh 4:10). The av translates Job 22:3, “if you make your ways perfect.” Abraham was instructed to be tāmı̂m (Gen 17:1), as was all Israel (Deut 18:13; cf. II Sam 22:33; Ps 101:2a, 6). They were to be “wholly” God’s; for, even here, “the words which are rendered in English by ‘perfect’ and ‘perfection’ denoted originally something other and less than ideal perfection” (IDB, III, p. 730).

From a concept of being “used up,” as of money (Gen 47:15, 18), tāmam takes on the meaning of “come to a close, cease,” as of a year (v. 18; cf. Ps 102:27 [H 28]). The verb denotes the finishing of various actions, such as building (I Kgs 6:22) or writing (Deut 31:24, 30). Finally, it refers to a people’s destruction (Num 14:33).

Two problems of ot theology concern the verb tāmam: self-righteousness and perfectionism. Illustrating the former, David expresses the resolve, “I will walk within my house with a perfect (tōm) heart” (Ps 101:2b KJV, ASV marg. and RSV, “in the integrity of my heart”); cf. his not infrequent professions of righteousness (Ps 7:8 [H 9]; 18:20). Yet the connection with the nt Pharisaism remains one of the “mere appearance” (KD, Psalms, I, p. 72). “Some of these utterances are no more than asseverations that the speaker is innocent of particular crimes laid to his charge; others are general professions of purity of purpose. … Those who make them do not profess to be absolutely sinless, but they do disclaim all fellowship with the wicked, from whom they expect to be distinguished in the course of Providence” (A. F. Kirkpatrick, Cambridge Bible, Psalms, I, p. lxxxvii).

For the latter, other than in the above-listed passages referring to God himself, the ot resists claims to ultimate perfection. Noah was said to be tāmı̂m “perfect” (Gen 6:9; NASB, “blameless in his time”). But compare Genesis 9:21–23 and even the creature “in Eden” (Ezk 28:13, whether Adam or Satan, see sāṭan) who was tāmı̂m from his creation until unrighteousness was found in him (v. 15), was by no means incapable of sin. Scripture’s preeminent example of the tām “perfect” man is Job (Job 1:1). He claimed to be tām (9:21–22) and tāmı̂m (12:4) and held fast to his tmmâ “integrity” (27:5; 31:6), as recognized not only by his wife (2:9) but also by Yahweh in heaven (1:8; 2:3). In reference to the root meaning of tāmam, he was a “finished product,” well rounded and balanced (IB, III, p. 909). Job, however, prefaced his own assertions by granting, “Though I be perfect, it (marg., he) shall prove me perverse” (9:20 ASV). He admitted his sins (7:20–21; 9:2, 15; 10:6; 14:16–17), even from his youth (13:26), confessed that he could not be held innocent (9:28), and ended by retracting his rash charges against God and by repenting in dust and ashes (42:6). As he explained, “If I have truly erred, my error lodges with me”; i.e., he was not guilty of the accusations made by his “friends” (22:6–9) and was tāmı̂m, wholehearted in his commitment to the person and requirements of God.

תֹּם      (tōm). Integrity. (In eleven of twenty-three usages); also strength, perfection (Isa 47:9; ASV RSV translate “full measure”), or uprightness. The phrase lĕ tōm, concerning a soldier’s bow, shot “at a venture” (I Kgs 22:34), literally (marg.) “in his simplicity,” means unsuspectingly. The plural, tmmı̂m “perfections,” describes the Thummin, the precious stones of Aaron’s breastpiece (see ˒ûrı̂m).

תּמָּה   (tmmâ). Integrity. Appears five times in ot wisdom literature (e.g. Job 2:3; Prov 11:3).

תָּם (tām). Perfect. So translated in nine of thirteen occurrences, many of which refer to the patriarch Job. Also means undefiled, upright. For young Jacob’s identification as a “plain” man (Gen 25:27 KJV), the revised versions render tām as harmless (marg.), quiet.

תָּמִים (tāmı̂m). Complete. Refers to animals which are without blemish; also translated as such related adjectives a full, whole, upright, perfect. It represents the divine standard for man’s attainment.

Bibliography: Deissley, A., “Perfection,” in Sacramentum Verbi, II, 1970, pp. 658–63. Payne, J. B., Theology of the Older Testament, Zondervan, 1971, pp. 336–38. THAT, II, pp. 1045–50.

9447 תָּם (tām): adj.; ≡ Str 8535; TWOT 2522c—1. LN 88.1-88.11 blameless, innocent, i.e., pertaining to a person or condition of moral goodness, with a focus of being guiltless and not liable for sin or wrong (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; 8:20; 9:20, 21, 22; Ps 37:37; 64:5[EB 4]; Pr 29:10+); 2. LN 79.9-79.17 flawless, perfect, i.e., pertaining to the feature of an object of beauty (SS 5:2; 6:9+); 3. LN 88.102-88.104 peaceful, quiet, i.e., pertaining to peaceful behavior and personality which does not easily engage stressful adventure or conflict, as a herdsman (Ge 25:27+); 4. LN 18.12-18.23 unit: יַחְדָּו הָיָה תָּם (yǎḥ∙dāw hā∙yā(h) tām) fit, formally, together be complete, i.e., attached two objects into a single unit (Ex 26:24; 36:29+); 5. LN 23.129-23.141 strong, i.e., pertaining to being in sound health (Ps 73:4 niv+), note: for MT text, see 4638 + 4392, while niv text is 4564 + 9447


[1]Collins English Dictionary. 2000 (electronic ed.). Glasgow: HarperCollins.

adj adj: adjective

TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger

AV Authorized Version

v v: verb

TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger

AV Authorized Version

BDB Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1905

IDB Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G. Buttrick, 1962

KJV King James Version of the Bible

ASV American Standard Version of the Bible

RSV Revised Standard Version of the Bible

KD K. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament

NASB New American Standard Version of the Bible

IB Interpreter’s Bible

THAT E. Jenni u. C. Westermann, Theologisches handbuch zum Alten Testament

adj. adjective, or adjectival

Str Strong’s Lexicon

TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

LN Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon

EB English Bible versification

+ I have cited every reference in regard to this lexeme discussed under this definition.

niv New International Version

MT Masoretic Text

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