HORMAH ( = "inviolable," "asylum"; in Biblical folk-etymology it is explained as signifying "under the ban ["ḥerem"]," "devoted to destruction"):
By: Emil G. Hirsch
Name of a city, usually found without the article, but in Num. xiv. 45 (Hebr.) written "ha-Ḥormah." It is not certain whether only one, or more than one, place is represented by the name, though the latter is more probable. Hormah is mentioned between Chesil and Ziklag in the list of the "uttermost cities" of Judah, toward the territory of Edom "southward," in the Negeb (Josh. xv. 21, 30-31). It is also among the places allotted to Simeon, and is mentioned between Bethul and Ziklag (Josh. xix. 4-5; I Chron. iv. 30).
The "elders of Judah . . . which were in Hormah" were included by David among those that shared in the distribution of the spoils captured from the Amalekites (I Sam. xxx. 30). Situated in the south-western part of the Judean Negeb, this Hormah can not well be held to be identical with the Hormah described as being in Seir, though modern critics suggest the emendation "mi-Se'ir" = "from Seir," in the account of the repulse the invading Israelites met at the hands of the Canaanites (Deut. i. 44). This Hormah must have been situated not far from Kadesh (Num. xiv. 45). It is not plain to which of these two localities (if they are distinct) the narrative that is twice given to account for the name (Num. xxi. 1-3; Judges i. 17) refers. The first passage suggests that the older native name was "Arad"; with the neighboring cities the place was destroyed by the Israelites during their earlier wanderings, as a punishment for the hostilities of its king. Hence the new name, "devoted to destruction." The second passage (Judges i. 17) gives "Zephath" as the original appellation; Judah aiding Simeon to destroy it, it came to be known as "Hormah." Some critics (among them Johannes Bachmann) have contended that the city was twice destroyed; others explain that Num. xxi. 3 narrates by anticipation the destruction of the town by Judah and Simeon.
Arad and Zephath must then also be held to be identical, which raises new difficulties. For this reason the change of "Zephath" into "Arad" in the reading of Judges i. 17 has been suggested, while Moore ("Judges," p. 36) would omit the words "melek Arad" in Num. xxi. 1 (Hebr.) as an interpolation. This would leave the two passages without any connection, except in that they both contain explanations of the name "Hormah." Robinson connects Zephath with the pass Nakb al-Ṣafa, south-east of Kurnub ("Researches," 2d ed., ii. 18l). Rowlands identifies it with Sebata or Sebaita (see Williams, "Holy City," 2d ed., i. 464), and is supported by Palmer ("The Desert of the Exodus," pp. 371 et seq.). Moore (l.c.) rejects both identifications. Cheyne ("Encyc. Bibl.") solves the difficulties by the transposition of the consonants of the name to read , which, of course, is then brought into relation with the Jerahmeelites.