🔼The name Arba: Summary
- From the cardinal number רבע (raba'), four.
🔼The name Arba in the Bible
There's only one man named Arba in the Bible and he is called the greatest man among the already huge Anakim, which he fathered (Joshua 14:15, 15:13). The Anakim are counted among the Biblical race(s) of the Nephilim and Rephaim, so Arba must have been gigantic indeed.
Arba founded a town called Kiriath-arba, which was later called Hebron, and his three gargantuan descendants were named Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai. They lived in Hebron but were expelled by Caleb, son of Jephunneh and the friend of Joshua (Joshua 15:14) and were finally defeated by Judah (Judges 1:10). After conquering Kiriath-arba, Caleb conquered Kiriath-sepher, which means City Of Books.
🔼Etymology of the name Arba
The name Arba is identical to the Hebrew word for four:
The word רבע (raba') means four, which is where the typically human complex number sense begins. Verb רבע (raba') means to square. Nouns רבע (reba') and רבע (roba') mean a fourth part. Adjectives רביעי (rebi'i) and רביעית (rebi'it) mean fourth, and adjective רבע (ribbea') means "pertaining to the fourth."
The identical verb רבע (raba') is a variant of the verb רבץ (rabas; see next). It means to stretch out or lie down (mostly in a sexual sense).
Verb רבץ (rabas) means to stretch out or lie down (mostly not in a sexual sense). Nouns רבץ (rebes) and מרבץ (marbes) mean resting place.
For a meaning of the name Arba, NOBSE Study Bible Name List simply reads Four. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Quadrangular, and explains that in Greek the word for square may denote perfection. This may be true in Greek (and quite squarely still is in English) but in Hebrew it isn't and the name Arba seems to convey more than just a sturdy stature.
Kiriath-arba was situated close to Kiriath-sepher, which indicates that the place was an academic hotspot. The name Arba may have conveyed the theory of four, which resulted in the birth of the number sequence, and thus everything from monetary economy to complex architecture. In early Biblical times, knowledge, power and magic went hand in hand and the development of a calculus system must have appeared as a miracle to the clueless.
If Arba denotes the rise of calculus in the evolution of human intellect (as much of the Bible obviously is), then Arba belonged to an antiquity deeper than that of Joshua. But in effect, Arba is the Biblical equivalent of Pythagoras, who based his entire religion on the idea that numbers could explain the universe. This Pythagorean belief remained enticing up to the twentieth century, when Kurt Gödel gave it its death blow with his incompleteness theorem (for more on this, see our article on Kurt Gödel).
But that there is more to Arba and his Anakim is made obvious by the names of four post-exilic Levitical gatekeepers that are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 9:17 (and note that both the name Levi and the name Hebron come from verbs that mean to join):