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Meaning and etymology of the name Ichabod

Ichabod Ichabod

Ichabod, whose name is unique in the Bible, is the son of Phinehas, one of the two sons of Eli who was high priest during the apprenticeship of Samuel the judge. One day Israel meets the Philistines in battle and the Israelites think it a good idea to bring the Ark of the Covenant along as a good luck charm. Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas accompany the Ark. But since God's blessing is not on the endeavor, the Philistines win the battle, slay Hophni and Phinehas and take the Ark.

When word of the defeat reaches Eli, he falls over backward and dies too. Phinehas' wife was about to give birth and when she hears that her husband and father in law have died, labor sets in. With her dying breath she names her child Ichabod, because "the glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God was taken."

The name Ichabod, like the name Jezebel, starts with the curious particle ay, which in the void of context of a name may mean a lot of things: ay (ay) means coast or region (Isaiah 20:6); ay (ay) means jackal; ay (ay) is a common interrogative adverb meaning where; ay (ay) means alas (Ecclesiastes 4:10 only); and ay (ay) a rare adverb of negation meaning not (Job 22:30 only). BDB favors the latter because it is used often in Rabbinical literature to indicate a negation or impossibility.

The second part of the name Ichabod comes from the marvelous verb kabed (kabed), basically denoting to be heavy or weighty. Of the few hundred occurrences in the Bible only very few are in the literal sense of being heavy, and that mostly in the book of Samuel (1 Sam 4:18, where Eli is called heavy, and 14:26 where Absalom's hair is called heavy).

The verb kabed (kabed) may denote a heaviness of sin (Genesis 18:20), a hardness of heart (Exodus 7:14), dullness of ears (Isaiah 6:10) or eyes (Genesis 48:10) or slowness of speech (Exodus 4:10). Abraham was "heavily" wealthy (Genesis 13:2), Balaam's comrogues enjoyed "heavy" esteem (Numbers 22:15), and the Ten Commandments state that parents are to be "heavied." It seems that most of the occurrences of this verb denote glory or glorification, and judging from the context, the name Ichabod most likely refers to just that.

Both NOBS Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names translate this name with Inglorious.

A related name is Jochebed.



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