🔼The name Arbathite: Summary
- From the root ערב ('arab), to criss-cross or traverse.
🔼The name Arbathite in the Bible
There is only one Arbathite mentioned in the Bible, but he comes with two names. In 2 Samuel 23:31 we meet Abi-albon the Arbathite in the list of mighty-men of king David. The Chronicler submits (nearly) the same list of names, but no Abi-albon occurs, and we find only Abiel the Arbathite (1 Chronicles 11:32). It's uncertain but likely that Abi-albon and Abiel are the same man, and it's equally uncertain but likely that he came from either the Arabah at large, or else Beth-arabah specifically.
🔼Etymology of the name Arbathite
The ethnonym Arbathite is really a feminine variant of the Hebrew word for Arab (ערבי). That is to say, Arbathite does not denote a female Arab, but a man who comes from a place known by the feminine variant of the Hebrew word for Arabia: either the general region known as the Arabah, or else the town on its border known as Beth-arabah. All these names come from the cluster of roots of the form ערב ('rb):
The root ערב ('arab) means to criss-cross or to traverse and covers multiple separate word groups. Noun ערב ('ereb) refers to the woof (the thing that zips over-and-under the warp when weaving). Noun ערב ('ereb) denotes a foreign group that intersects a native population and likewise noun ערב ('arob) denotes a swarm of invading insects.
Verb ערב ('arab II) means to take, give or exchange on pledge. Nouns ערבה ('arubba), ערבן ('erabon) and תערבה (ta'aruba) mean pledge. Noun מערב (ma'arab) refers to merchandise; articles of exchange.
Verb ערב ('arab III) means to be pleasing in the sense of rewarding or satisfying. Adjective ערב ('areb) means pleasing in that same sense.
Verb ערב ('rb IV) is probably the same as the first one and would most literally mean to be a nomad. Noun ערב ('arab) refers to the region now known as Arabia (i.e. "Nomadia"). The noun ערב ('arab) would literally mean nomad as does the ethnonym ערבי ('arabi), Arab or Arabian.
Verb ערב ('rb V) appears to describe the journey of the sun across the sky. Noun ערב ('ereb) means sunset or evening, and the derived verb ערב ('arab) means to become evening and secondarily, to become dark, black or gloomy. Noun מערב (ma'arab) means west or westward.
What verb ערב ('rb VI) may have meant isn't clear. Noun ערב ('oreb) means raven, i.e. a proverbial dark bird or else one that criss-crosses the land. Ravens are additionally associated with hearing; doves are with sight. Likewise the noun ערבה ('araba) means poplar possibly named after the patterns of its bark.
Since it is not wholly certain that the name Arabah corresponded to a specific geographic region, but may very well have been the word for an area in which people would have to move around to survive, the ethnonym Arbathite may either mean Someone From The Arabah, or else simply Wanderer.