ATS Bible DictionaryChemarim
Occurring once only in the English version, Zephaniah 1:4, but frequently in the Hebrew, translated "idolatrous priests," 2 Kings 23:5 Hosea 10:5. The word is supposed to be derived from a root signifying to burn, and may perhaps denote fire-priests, worshippers of the sun.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaCHEMARIM
kem'-a-rim (kemarim, a plural whose singular komer is not found in the Old Testament): Occurs only once in the text of English Versions of the Bible (Ze 1:4, the King James Version Chemarims), though the Hebrew word is found also in 2 Kings 23:5 (English Versions "idolatrous priests") and Hosea 10:5 (English Versions "priests," English Versions margins, however, having "Chemarim" in both places). Some regard the word as an interpolation in Zephaniah 1:4, since the Septuagint omits it and its presence disturbs the parallelism. The word, which is of Aramaic origin (kumra, priest), is used in the Old Testament only in an unfavorable sense, its origin and associations naturally suggesting Syriac affinities. In the Syriac, however, no such connotation is involved. In the Peshitta version of the Old Testament it is used indifferently of idolatrous priests and of priests of Yahweh, while in the same version of the New Testament it is used of the Levitical priests and of our Lord (e.g. Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14, 15, and often) and in Acts 19:35 it is the rendering of neokoros (the Revised Version (British and American) "temple-keeper," the King James Version "worshipper"). The question of the root idea of the word remains unsettled. The traditional supposition, which finds some support even among modern scholars, is that the verbal form means "to be black," the priests being supposed to have been clad in black. But it is doubtful whether the root had this meaning. Another conjecture takes the root to mean "to be sad," the priest being a man of a sad countenance, an ascetic. Cheyne would relate the word to the Assyrian kummaru, having the sense of "a clean vesture." It is at all events probable that the priests, both in Israel and in the surrounding nations, employed white vestments, rather than black, when in the performance of their official functions. According to the Mishna, Middoth, verse 4, a Levitical priest who had become disqualified for service put on black garments and departed, while the others put on white garments and went in and ministered. The reference to the Baal worship in 2 Kings 10:22 seems more congruous with this view; hence, probably blackrobed priests (Chemarim) of Baal and the unfaithful priests of Yahweh shall be cut off together. G. A. Smith (BTP, II, 56) reads "the priestlings with the priests."
J. R. Van Pelt
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Black, (Zephaniah 1:4
; rendered "idolatrous priests" in 2 Kings 23:5
, and "priests" in Hosea 10:5
). Some derive this word from the Assyrian Kamaru, meaning "to throw down," and interpret it as describing the idolatrous priests who prostrate themselves before the idols. Others regard it as meaning "those who go about in black," or "ascetics."