🔼The name Beth-ashbea: Summary
- House Of The Oath
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb שבע (shaba'), to take an oath.
🔼The name Beth-ashbea in the Bible
The name Beth-ashbea occurs only one time in the Bible, in the genealogy of Judah. 1 Chronicles 4:21 tells of "the families of the house of the linen workers לבית אשבע ..". The letter ל means here "at" and בית (beth) means house.
There's a bit of a dispute on whether Beth-ashbea is the name of a place, or whether Ashbea is the name of a man of Judah, who ran a linen factory. In case of the latter, the sentence would become a bit awkward: "the families in the house of the linen workers at the house of Ashbea," but the Vulgate opted for this, and so do some later translations (KJV, Darby, JSP, ASV, Young), while others don't and read Beth-ashbea (NAS) or Beth Ashbea (NIV).
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-ashbea
The name Beth-ashbea obviously consists of two parts. The first part is the familiar word בית (bayit or beth in compounds), meaning house:
The noun בית (bayit) means house. It sometimes merely denotes a domestic building, but mostly it denotes the realm of authority of the house-father, or אב (ab). This ab is commonly the living alpha male of a household, but may very well be a founding ancestor (as in the familiar term the "house of Israel"). The אב (ab) may also be a deity, in which case the בית (bayit) is that which we know as a temple.
In the larger economy, a house interacts with other houses. These interactions are governed by the אב (ab), or "father" and executed by the בנים (benim), or "sons": those people living in the house, irrespective of any biological relation with the אב (ab). The "sons" combined add up to אם ('em), which means both "mother" and "tribe".
The second part of our name comes from the verb שבע (shaba'), meaning to swear or take an oath:
The root שבע (sb'), which in modern medieval times became pointed as שׁבע (shaba'), has to do with the number seven and the act of binding with an oath (i.e. with a proverbial seven seals or seven bonds).
Nouns שבע (sheba') and שבעה (shib'a) mean 7 and their plural שבעים (shib'im) means 70. The dual form שבעתים (shib'atayim), means sevenfold or seven times. Adjectives שביעית (shebi'it) and שביעי (shebi'i) mean seventh.
The noun שבע (sheba'), meaning seven, became the verb שבע (shaba'), meaning to bind with an oath. Subsequent nouns שבועה (shebu'a) and שבעה (shebu'a) mean oath.
The identical root שבע (sb'), which in modern medieval times became pointed as שׂבע (saba'), means to be sated or satisfied, either with food and such or with any act, deed, quality or phenomenon. Nouns שבע (soba'), שבע (saba'), and שבעה (sab'a or sib'a) mean satiety, fullness, contentment and so on.
NOBSE Study Bible Name List (which is based on the NAS) features an entry for Beth-ashbea but nevertheless blatantly ignores the beth-part, and reads Let Me Call As Witness for a meaning of Beth-ashbea. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names is old-school, treats Ashbea as a personal name, and reads I Adjure for its meaning.
BDB Theological Dictionary — also old-school — appears to make a typo, but it's not clear where the error lies. On page 78a it reads "אשׁבע v. שׁבע. p. 959f," but on page 959 begins BDB's discussion of the letter שׂ, with at half a column in, the root שׂבע. Our name אשׁבע is neither mentioned on page 959-and-on, nor does it occur on page 987-and-on, where BDB discusses the verb שׂבע.