History of the name “SYRIA”

By: George Beth Ketto

While we agree on the fact that the name Aram is synonymous with the word Syria and that the Greeks translated or rather took the freedom and changed the Hebrew bibles epithet of the name Aram, Arameans and Aram- Naharaim to names that better fit their world, it is interesting to find out where the name "Syria" comes from. This change came about when King Ptolemy gathered 72 elders to translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. This took place in Alexandria between 3rd and 2nd century BC. The name of this translation is known as the “Septuaginta” as a reference to the number of the elders.

As we all know the name Lebanon derives from the mountain with the same name. Later on the name was applied to the land surrounding the mountain Lebanon. And according to the Torah and the Bibles even the name Syria is a name of a mountain. The name SIRION is appearing in different passages in the Holy Bible:

·         Deuteronomy 3:9;

·         Psalms 29:6;

·         1 Chronicles 5:23;

·         Song 4:8;

·         Ezekiel 27:5

This name was alternated with Mount Hermon in The Bible. In Deuteronomy 3:9 the Phoenicians called Mount Hermon for Sirion and that the Amorites called it Senir. So different people called it different names.

Another evidence:

5 Mos 4:48 ".... From Aroer, this is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sirion, which is Hermon..."

In Psalm 29, which I prefer to reproduce the whole psalm so the reader can better understand the meaning of the psalm. King David gives us more facts.

Psalm 29
1. Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
2. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
3. The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters.
4. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5. The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.
6. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.
7. The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire.
8. The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
9. The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.
10. The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.
11. The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

In this Psalm King David shows us that the name Sirion was canonical for that mountain. This theory is strengthening when the name appears in other passages in The Holy Bible. Now that we have agreed on the fact that the name Sirion is canonical (acknowledge and recognized) we can move to next step and that is to tie the name to our people.

We have seen that the name Syria was taken as an area name or country name even long before Lebanon became independent in 1943. And today both mountains are names of two countries.

Daniel Pipes writes in his book “Greater Syria” (
Oxford University Press, 1992)  that the Greeks associated the Arameans (Aram Beth Maacah, Aram Beth Rehob, Aram Geshur, etcetera) living around mount Sirion so closely to the mountain that they called them sirions. Daniel Pipes has an example in Lebanon where the people surrounding mount Lebanon is now days called Lebanese. the connection is convincing.

It is therefore logical to the Greeks to call the Aramaic language for Syriac and the people for Syrians, King of Aram for King of Syria, etc, etc.

George Beth Ketto

Gothenburg, Sweden