🔼The name Avvim in the Bible
There are three different people and a city known by the name עוים in the Bible, but although the original writers named them the same, later translators and interpreters have given them three different names:
- The Avvim (in some versions or the English Bible known as the Avims) who were indigenous to Canaan (specifically: the city Gaza and others), and who were dispossessed by the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor (Deuteronomy 2:23). The Septuagint called these people Ευαιοι and the Vulgate called them Hevaeos.
- A city (called Avim in some English versions) which came to be situated in the territory allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:23). The text in Joshua actually reads העוים, or The Avvim, so it's perfectly conceivable that this city was named after its original population; the Avvim mentioned in Deuteronomy 23. Although this Avvim and the previous one were spelled identical in Hebrew, the Septuagint calls it Αιειν or Αυειμ depending on which version one consults, and the Vulgate has Avim.
- The inhabitants of the Mesopotamian city Avva, from whence the Assyrian king brought folks to people the abandoned cities of Israel in the wake of the Assyrian exile (2 Kings 17:31). The Masoretes — who provided the world with suggestions on how to pronounce the Hebrew texts of the Bible, and who began to operate more than a millennium after they were written — marked the previous names עוים and this one with a minute difference (with a Pathah under the letter ע for the first two and a Hateph-pathah under the ע for this and the next one). But since we have no sound recordings from either Biblical times or Masoretic times, we still don't know what the difference is. For this and the next Avvim, the Septuagint reads the same transliteration as for the first Avvim, namely Ευαιοι, but the Vulgate has Hevaei for this one and the next. Most English translations read Avvites or Avites for this עוים and the next one.
- One of the Five Lords of the Philistines, who are listed according to the people's they ruled or represented (Joshua 13:3). Since the original Avvim lived in Gaza, and Gaza became an important Philistine city, it may very well be that these Philistine Avvim (or Avvites) are a remnant of the indigenous Avvim.
🔼Etymology of the name Avvim
It's pretty safe to assume that the ethnonym Avvim has either directly to do with the name of Avva the city, or comes from the same root, namely the root-verb עוה ('awa), meaning to distort:
For a meaning of the name Avvim NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Villagers, but that is probably because the learned body that composed this list ties our name to the ethnonym חוי (Hivite). But these names are really too unlike to be etymologically related.
BDB Theological Dictionary stays far away from any interpretation and lists עוים per alphabet and not under some root.
Only the valiant Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) dares to confirm that our name comes from the verb עוה ('awa), meaning to distort. For his interpretation of our name, Jones goes with the group of derivations that denote ruin and figures that this might very well cover deserts and deserted places. Hence Jones reads Inhabitants Of Desert Places for Havvim, or The Avvim, and Those Who Inhabit Desert Places for the indigenous Canaanites who were displaced by the Philistines.