🔼The name Gabbai: Summary
- Tax Gatherer
- From the verb גבה (gaba), to collect.
🔼The name Gabbai in the Bible
The name Gabbai occurs only once in the Bible, but in a curious (or dubious, say some scholars) text: Nehemiah 11:8, which reads: ואחריו גבי סלי. This can mean that after "him" (presumably Sallu, see 11:7) came Gabbai-sallai, or Gabbi, Sallai and then some, or it means something different all together and we're clueless, which is not unthinkable.
🔼Etymology of the name Gabbai
The name Gabbai probably comes from the following root cluster:
The verb גבב (gabab) doesn't occur in the Bible but it appears to have meant to be concave or convex; to be bulbous or hollow. Noun גב (gab) denotes anything that is bulbous (hills, buttocks).
The verb גוב (gub) means to dig. Noun גב (geb) means pit or ditch. This verb appears to be associated with the verb יגב (yagab), meaning to till (what a farmer does). Noun יגב (yaqeb) probably refers to the field where the farmer tills.
Noun גבא (gebe') appears to describe a hollow in which water collects and is commonly translated with cistern, pool or marsh.
Verb גבה (gaba) means to collect. Nouns גב (geb), גוב (gob), גבי (gobay) and גובי (gobay) refer to locusts. Possibly a whole other verb גבה (gabah) means to be high, exalted or lofty, although this verb could actually describe a person who collected a heap, or who plunders a society like a swarm of locusts. In the Talmud the word for tax collector was derived from this verb. Adjective גבה (gaboah) means high or haughty. Noun גבה (gobah) means height or haughtiness. And noun גבהות (gabhut) means haughtiness.
Verb גבע (gabay) appears to mean the same as גבב (gabab), to be concave or convex. The very common noun גבעה (gib'a) means hill.
The unused verb גבן (gaban) probably meant to be curved, contracted or coagulated. Adjective גבן (giben) means humpbacked. Noun גבינה (gebina) means curd or cheese. Noun גבנן (gabnon) means peak or rounded summit.
A certain grammatical construction that creates a sort of continuous tense of the verb גבב (gabab) is formed from prefixing a נ (nun) and making the double ב (beth) a single one. The result, a verb נגב (nagab) would mean to undulate, to wave, to have shifting dunes. That verb doesn't exist, but a mysterious noun נגב (negeb) does. This noun would thus denote a region with rolling hills, and came to be synonymous with "south".
For a meaning of the name Gabbai, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Tax Gatherer. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) reads An Exactor Of Tribute. BDB Theological Dictionary lists the name Gabbai under the verb גבב and notes that the word גבי in the Talmud means a tax-gatherer.