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CHEMARIM (kĕm'a-rĭm, Heb. kemārîm). The KJV rendering of a word probably from a root meaning “prostrate oneself” (Zeph.1.4). The Hebrew word occurs also in 2Kgs.23.5 and Hos.10.5 and always refers to idolatrous priests, thus the reading in RSV and NIV.

CHEMARIM kĕm’ ərĭm (כְּמָרִ֗ים, meaning uncertain). Priests of idols or foreign gods.

This is the KJV transliteration of a Heb. word in Zephaniah 1:4, though the Heb. word also appears elsewhere (see below). Its etymology is uncertain, none of those suggested being widely accepted. The root is also attested in Aram. (-Syr.) as kûmrâ'. There it is applied not only to an idol priest but also to a priest of God, thus with a favorable connotation. However, in OT it is used only of the priests of idols or foreign gods, thus with an unfavorable sense. For example, it is used of the priests of the high places on which idols or foreign gods were worshiped (2 Kings 23:5), the priests of the calf-idols at Bethel (Hos 10:5), and the priests of Baal (Zeph 1:4).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

J. R. Van Pelt