The Hebrew Names of the Seven Planets
In the ancient world, the Hebrew names of the seven planets are found in the Babylonian Talmud, but evidence shows that there were another set of names given by the Jews of the Later Roman Empire.
These other names are sourced from Epiphanius, the Bishop of Constantia (Salamis) in Cyprus from 367 to 402 CE. He was born to Jewish parents in Palestine and was a polyglot (or pentaglossos) since he was versed in Hebrew, Syriac, Egyptian, Greek, and Latin. It is his names for the Seven Planets that are the earliest and the most accurate. They are listed in Panarion 15.2.
One. The Sun. Traditional name: Hammah. Panarion name: Hema or Semes.
Two. The Moon. Traditional name: Lebanah. Panarion name: Albana or leree or Mene.
Three. Venus. Traditional name: Kokab Nogah or Kokebet. Panarion name: Zeroua or Loueth.
Four. Mercury. Traditional name: Kokab. Panarion name: Chocheb Ochomod.
Five. Mars. Traditional name: Ma’adim. Panarion name: Chocheb Okbol.
Six. Jupiter. Traditional name: Sedeq. Panarion name: Chocheb Baal.
Seven. Saturn. Traditional name: Sabbetay. Panarion name: Chocheb Sabeth.
Let us look at each planet more closely.
The Sun: Epiphanius uses two terms for the sun but the name Semes was not used in post-Biblical times relating to astronomy.
The Moon: “His first term corresponds to Hebrew lebnadh (apparently with the definite article in his list) and the second to yareah. Again, only the former term is used in post-biblical astronomical terminology”. Also, the latter term is not used in astronomy in post-Biblical times.
Venus: Neither name for Venus is used in post-Biblical times. Although both are feminine nouns, their Hebrew roots are still undermined. However, each name is used for Venus as twin aspects of Morning and Evening Star.
Mercury: “Epiphanius evidently records the full Hebrew name of Mercury Kokab Ochomod, “Ochomod Planet,” whereas the traditional name is simply “Planet” (masculine). Neither the root nor the meaning of Ochomod is easily interpreted.
Mars: This planet was called “Kokab Okbol, “Okbol Planet,” but the traditional term has been changed completely to Ma’adim, “Reddener.” The latter is religiously neutral and astronomically correct, Mars indeed being the “Red Planet”’.
Jupiter: Known as ‘Baal’s Planet’ it was a traditional name which means ‘justice’.
Saturn: Both the traditional and Panarion names are similar – the former meaning Planet of Rest and the latter Restful. The names may be connected with the fact that Saturn was the slowest out of all the other planets known at the time.
When looking at the traditional and the earliest Hebrew names for the planets, we can see that in Epiphanius’ version, he avoids using religiously offensive names (for example, the Talmudic terms for the sun and moon consistently avoid the names Semes and Yareah, evidently because there were the Canaanite (and biblical) terms for the deified sun and moon).
Since the names of Epiphanius’ list of the Seven Planets are all Semitic in origin, it is probable that these names are all historically the native Semitic names used by astrologers and used by the Jewish people during the Roman Empire. If we delve deeper, than it is highly likely that their ultimate roots lie in ancient Babylonian astronomy.
Stieglitz, Robert R. (1981) The Hebrew Names of the Seven Planets, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, The University of Chicago Press.