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Meaning and etymology of the name Bebai

Bebai Bebai

There are two men named Bebai in the Bible, or so it is reasonably assumed. Ezra mentions a patriarch whose 623 "sons" were among those who joined Zerubbabel in the first wave of Israelites to return to Canaan from the Babylonian exile. It's generally regarded safe to assume that patriarch Bebai wasn't alive to see 623 of his male offspring, and so the Bebai who Nehemiah mentions among the signers of the sealed document, is another Bebai (10:15).

It's unclear where the name Bebai comes from, but one of the candidates is the curious word baba (baba), meaning "apple" of the eye or pupil. This feminine noun occurs in the Bible only in Zechariah 2:8 (in the contruction "the baba of the eye", and the etymology of this word is uncertain. Some scholars (Gesenius, for instance) propose relations with the Hebrew verb nabab (nabab), meaning to hollow out (Job 11:12, Jeremiah 52:21), and translate our word baba (baba) with "opening" of the eye. Others suggest it has to do with a child's babble (that may also have given us the word baby) and translate our word baba with "child" of the eye.

NOBS Study Bible Name List translates the name Bebai with Fatherly, which apparently means that a relation with the word ab (ab), meaning father, is proposed.

Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) believes our name Bebai is a contraction of (a) the particle be, meaning in our by; (b) the root of the word ab (ab), meaning father, which is aba (aba), which for this occasion is said to be a verb and to mean to desire or long for (an interpretation which is not shared with any of the other sources, and is dubious at best); and (3) a truncation of YHWH (YHWH; Yahweh, the name of the Lord). Hence Jones renders the name Bebai the meaning of With The Desire Of The Lord.



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