Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
גבב גוב יגב גבא גבה גבע גבן נגב
The cluster of roots listed above has related forms and similar or resembling meanings:
The root גבב (gbb) doesn't occur as verb in the Bible but in cognate languages it means to be or make hollow, to dig, to cut off or out, and related nouns mean hill and cistern. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes that the Hebrew root verb probably meant to be curved, convex or elevated. In the Bible only the derived masculine noun גב (gab) occurs, and it appears to denote things convex, curved or elevated. Our noun occurs thirteen times and BDB manages to identify six categories of meanings:
Our noun may denote the back or buttocks of a man (Psalm 129:3) or of cherubim (Ezekiel 10:12). It may denote a hill (Ezekiel 16:24), or the elevation of an altar (Ezekiel 43:13). It may describe a quality of a shield, perhaps its rim or bulbous curvature (Job 15:26), something said, perhaps a build-up argumentation or boastful discourse (Job 13:12), the hairy "hills" or "rims" of the eye, which are most probably a person's eyebrows (Leviticus 14:9), and something pertaining to a wheel, probably the curved segments that form the rim of it (1 Kings 7:33).
The root-verb גוב (gub) means to dig. It occurs in Arabic with the meaning of to pierce, bore of hollow out. Its derivatives are:
- The masculine noun גב (geb), meaning pit, ditch or trench (Jeremiah 14:3, 2 Kings 3:16; this noun in Arabic means hollow or depression; in Syriac it means cistern).
- The identical noun גב (geb) of unclear meaning. It occurs only in 1 Kings 6:9 and translators commonly interpret this word with beam(s) but that's just a guess.
The root-verb יגב (yagab) means to till; to be a farmer, or so it's supposed. The derived masculine noun יגב (yaqeb) probably means field. The verb possibly occurs in Jeremiah 52:16 and the parallel text of 2 Kings 25:12, and the noun occurs in that same verse and also in Jeremiah 39:10.
The problem is that it's not clear whether these occurrences are actually of this verb יגב (yagab) or of the verb גוב (gub). For 2 Kings 25:12 and Jeremiah 52:16, most English translations speak of folks becoming vinedressers and plowmen (NAS) or husbandmen, but the NIV sees people put to work the vineyards and fields. For Jeremiah 39:10, all translations read vineyards and fields.
The verb גבא (gb') does not occur in the Bible but in Arabic it means to restrain and possibly to collect. In Aramaic this verb indeed means to collect (debts, taxes, etcetera). The only trace of this root in Biblical Hebrew is the masculine noun גבא (gebe'), meaning cistern (Isaiah 30:14) or pool or marsh (Ezekiel 47:11).
The root-verb גבה (gbh I) does not occur in the Bible but it's the Hebrew equal of the Aramaic verb גבא (gb') that means to collect. It also occurs in Arabic with the same meaning. In Biblical Hebrew exist:
- The masculine noun גב (geb), meaning locust (Isaiah 33:4 only, in plural: גבים, gebim).
- The masculine noun גוב (gob), meaning locusts collectively (Nahum 3:17 only).
- The masculine noun גבי (gobay) or גובי (gobay) also meaning locusts collectively (Amos 7:1, Nahum 3:17; Nahum writes גוב גובי, gob gobay).
The verb גבה (gabah) means to be high (Job 35:5, Jeremiah 49:16, Ezekiel 19:11), exalted (Isaiah 55:9), lofty (2 Chronicles 17:6) or haughty (Psalm 131:1). Its derivatives are:
- The adjective גבה (gaboah), meaning high (Genesis 7:19, Isaiah 2:15), exalted (Ezekiel 21:31), lofty (1 Samuel 16:7) or haughty (Psalm 138:6).
- The masculine noun גבה (gobah), meaning height (Ezekiel 1:18), grandeur (Job 40:10) or haughtiness (Jeremiah 48:29, Proverbs 16:18).
- The feminine noun גבהות (gabhut), meaning haughtiness (Isaiah 2:11 and 2:17 only).
The root גבע (gb') isn't used as verb in the Bible but according to BDB Theological Dictionary (and the usage of this verb in cognate languages) it must have meant something like to be convex, projecting or high. Its derivatives are:
- The feminine noun גבעה (gib'a), meaning hill as lower than a mountain (Exodus 17:9), or in poetry mentioned in parallel with mountains (Deuteronomy 33:15, Isaiah 2:2), a hill as symbol for majesty or eternity (Genesis 49:26, Habakkuk 3:6), a hill explicitly as center of worship (1 Kings 14:23, Jeremiah 2:20).
Named hills are:
- גבעת המורה (gib'at hamore), Hill of Moreh (Judges 7:1).
- גבעת הערלות (gibe'at h'arlot), Gibeath-haaraloth (Joshua 5:3).
- גבעה האלהים (gib'a h'elohim), Hill of Elohim (1 Samuel 10:5).
- גבעה החכילה (gib'a hahakila), Hill of Hachilah (1 Samuel 23:19, 26:1-3).
- גבעה אמה (gib'a 'amma), Hill of Ammah (2 Samuel 2:24).
- גבעה הלבונה (gib'a halebona), Hill of Frankincense, which is probably a perfectly acceptable erotic term, see our article on myrrh (Song of Solomon 4:6).
- גבעה גרב (gib'a gareb), Hill Gareb (Jeremiah 31:39).
- גבעה ירושלם (gib'a yerushalem), Hill of Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:32), which is comparable to חר־ציון (har-sion; Mount Zion, also see Isaiah 31:4).
- The masculine noun גביע (gabia'), meaning cup or bowl (Genesis 44:12, Exodus 25:34, Jeremiah 35:5).
- The feminine plural noun מגבעות (migba'ot), meaning turban (Exodus 28:40, Leviticus 8:13).
- The masculine noun גבעל (gib'ol), meaning bud (Exodus 9:31 only).
The verb גבן (gbn) doesn't occur in the Bible but BDB Theological Dictionary states that it probably meant to be curved, contracted or coagulated. Its derivatives are:
- The adjective גבן (giben), meaning humpbacked (Leviticus 21:20 only).
- The feminine noun גבינה (gebina), meaning curd or cheese (Job 10:10 only).
- The masculine noun גבנן (gabnon), meaning peak, rounded summit, or many-peaked (Psalm 68:16 only).
The curious and multifarious noun נגב (ngb) can be explained in four vastly different ways: as the name Negev, as coming from a verb that means to be dry, as a noun meaning "specific area", and as a noun meaning south.
BDB Theological Dictionary says that the noun נגב (ngb) comes from an unused verb נגב (ngb), which means to be dry or parched. But the Hebrew language allows for nouns to be produced by adding a נ (nun) in front of the root and when the last two letters of the root are the same, they assimilate into one of the same. In other words, the noun נגב (ngb) looks like it expresses the ongoing action of the verb גבב (gbb), and possibly denotes a specific area; a specific region with specific characteristics that sits in the larger land. Modern translations often transliterate this noun into the familiar name Negev (which would make it comparable to the name Galilee), but that should probably be avoided because the modern area known as the Negev is not the same as what the Bible calls נגב (ngb).
The word נגב (ngb) may indeed be the name or epithet of the arid region in the south of Judah and beyond. It's not clear whether נגב (ngb) actually means "south" and became a name, or whether the name of the southern part of Judah became synonymous with south. The ancients obviously had no compass, and there are several other words that appear to mean south (see for instance the word ימן (ymn), which is part of the name Benjamin and that of the country Yemen).
Our epithet נגב (ngb) is applied to the area roughly the same as modern Negev. When Abraham left Egypt he went north to נגב (ngb), which would make the literal translation of south awkward (Genesis 13:1). There was no Judah yet and Negev didn't mean south yet or also didn't exist yet and was reapplied back into the story (which isn't uncommon in the Bible, see for instance the name Bethel, which is mentioned in Genesis 12:8 but named such by Jacob in Genesis 28:29). Isaiah seems to apply the word נגב (ngb) to an area in or south of Babylon (Isaiah 21:1), and Daniel speaks of the king of נגב (ngb), which is Egypt (Daniel 11:5).
That our word may mean south is attested in texts where it occurs along the three other points of the compass (Genesis 13:14, 28:14). Our word may describe the southern border of a nation (Numbers 34:4), the southern gate of a city (Ezekiel 46:9), or the south side of a building (the tabernacle; Exodus 40:24).