WHO OR WHAT ARE THE “CHEMARIMS?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Prophet Zephaniah, quoting the LORD God, wrote the following in chapter 1 of his little book: “ I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;  And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;  And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired for him.” Who or what are these “Chemarims” of verse 4?
Unfortunately, the term only appears this one time in the English Bible text. However, context clues provide us with a general definition. The word “Chemarims” sits in-between the terms “Baal” and “priests.” According to secular history, Baal was the name of chief god/idol of the Canaanites, Israel’s Gentile pagan neighbors. The Jews increasingly adopted this and other heathen religions once they entered the Promised Land (see Judges 2:11-13). We thus see that “Chemarims” is related to pagan religion.
We read some interesting bits in Strong’s Hebrew Bible Dictionary. The basic Hebrew word translated “Chemarim” is kamar, elsewhere rendered “priests” or “idolatrous priests” in our King James Bible. Dr. Strong defines it as: “properly, an ascetic (as if shrunk with self-maceration), i.e. an idolatrous priest (only in plural):—Chemarims (idolatrous) priests.” Notice the following:
- 2 Kings 23:5: “And he put down the idolatrous priests [kamarim], whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.”
- Hosea 10:5: “The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests [kamarim], thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.”
- Zephaniah 1:4: “I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;”
Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon adds that this word kamar in Syriac “is prop.[erly] blackness, sadness, and as a concrete, one who goes about in black attire, mourning; hence, an ascetic, a priest.”
Taking all of this into account, “Chemarims” (notice the plural ending “–ims”) were evidently pagan, idolatrous priests notable for wearing black robes. By the way, the word kamar is translated “black” (as in “scorched”) in Lamentations 5:10. Israel allowed this false religious system—led by Chemarims—to infiltrate them many hundreds of years prior to Zephaniah. Thus, the LORD God through Zephaniah preached that judgment was coming upon Israel (technically the Southern Kingdom, Judah) because of her rank, persistent idolatry. Zephaniah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the fifth course of judgment began. The Babylonians first came around 600 B.C., destroyed Jerusalem, her false religion, and her Temple, and the Babylonian armies took Judah captive (exile) to Babylon. As Zephaniah had warned, JEHOVAH God indeed “cut off [destroyed] the name [authority] of the Chemarims with the priests!”
My friend, one last thing—would you happen to know of any people in religion today who wear black robes? (Interesting, huh?!)