Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Tamara
Tamara is derived from an old Biblical name Tamar (appearing twice in the Old Testament); the name comes from the Hebrew language (תָּמָר) and means “palm tree”. The most memorable Tamar from the Bible appears in Genesis 38:6-30 as the daughter-in-law of Judah. She is the wife of Judah’s firstborn son Er; however, Er was “wicked in the sight of the Lord” and was put to an early death. Judah then gave his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar and to raise his brother’s children (a tradition in the ancient world). However, Onan, too, became wicked in the eyes of the Lord so “He put him to death also”. Now Judah had one more son, Shelah, who was too young to marry Tamar – but Judah promised him to her when he came of age (although Judah, fearing the same outcome of his other two sons, had no intention of giving Shelah to Tamar). As time went on, Tamar realized Judah had reneged on his promise, so she came up with a crafty plan. Disguising herself as a prostitute, Tamar met up with Judah on his road to sheep shearing. He offered her one of his goats in exchange for intercourse (but because the goat could not be sent until later, Judah gave Tamar a few of his possessions as collateral). When the goat was later attempted to be delivered to the woman, no one in the area claimed to have seen such a prostitute. A few months later, Judah was told that Tamar had been immoral when it was discovered she was pregnant. He immediately sentenced her to death for her apparent indiscretion. At her sentencing, Tamar brought those items previously given to her by Judah (a signet, cord and staff) as evidence pointing to the man who had impregnated her. Judah instantly recognized the items as his own and said: “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” (Genesis 38:26). Tamar then bore Judah two more sons, twins named Perez and Zerah. She is remembered in Genesis as a righteous woman, and her son Perez is said to be an ancestor of King David. The other Biblical Tamar appears in 2 Samuel 13 as the daughter of King David and the sister of Absalom. Her half-brother, Amnon, the firstborn son of King David (and heir apparent to the throne) is besieged with desire for Tamar, who is described as a “beautiful virgin”. Amnon tricks Tamar into his chambers by pretending to be ill and rapes her. To add insult upon injury, he then turns her out of his house desolate and violated. Two years later Absalom avenges his sister’s rape by having Amnon murdered. The names Tamar and Tamara were mainly embraced among Eastern European Slavic people, especially Georgians and Russians (Queen Tamar of Georgia was a famous 12th/13th century queen whose family claimed direct descent from King David). The Puritans also rediscovered Tamar from the Bible after the Protestant Reformation and began to circulate the name among their own children. Today Tamara is most popular in Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia (and, oddly enough, in Chile).