🔼The name Gibeon: Summary
- Hill Town
- From the noun גבעה (gibeah), hill.
🔼The name Gibeon in the Bible
The name Gibeon belongs to a great and ancient Hivite city (Joshua 9:3, 9:7, 10:2), which after the conquest of Canaan was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25), which passed it on to the Levites (Joshua 21:17). By the time of David, the Gibeonites were Amorites, and rather vindictive to boot (2 Samuel 21:2).
Just after the beginning of the conquest of Canaan, the Hivites of Gibeon tricked the Israelites into believing that they came from a far land. Israel agreed to a treaty, after which it was revealed that Gibeon was not far away but smack in the heart of the Promised Land. Gibeon was annexed and the Gibeonites (גבעוני) were made servants engaged in the worship service of YHWH (Joshua 9:27). When Adoni-zedek and other Canaanite kings decided to attack Gibeon because of their pact with Israel, the Lord himself threw large stones at them at the descent of Beth-horon (Joshua 10:11). Joshua prayed and the sun famously stood still at Gibeon and the moon at Aijalon (Joshua 10:12).
For unexplained reasons, the city of Gibeon remained a ritualistic hotspot. There was a large stone there (2 Samuel 20:8). David moved the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:25) but the tabernacle and associated services remained at the high place of Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39, 21:29, 2 Chronicles 1:3, 1:13). The Lord appeared to Solomon in Gibeon, the night after he had conducted an elaborate worship service there, and gave him his proverbial wisdom (1 Kings 3:5, 9:2).
Besides a high place, Gibeon was associated with a wilderness (2 Samuel 2:24), and a valley (Isaiah 28:21). There was a great pool there (2 Samuel 2:12, Jeremiah 41:12), which may have been unearthed by archeologists in recent times. David cleaned out the Philistines from Gibeon to Gezer, says 1 Chronicles 14:16, but 2 Samuel 5:25 says Geba (גבע) to Gezer. At the request of the Amorites of Gibeon, two sons and five grandsons of Saul through his daughter Merab are publicly hanged at Gibeon (2 Samuel 21:8).
One of David's mighty-men was a Gibeonite (1 Chronicles 12:4). So was Hananiah son of Azzur, a false prophet and contemporary of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 28:1). So were Melatiah (Gibeonite here spelled גבעני) and friends who worked on Jerusalem's post-exilic restoration (Nehemiah 3:7) Ninety-five men of Gibeon came back from the exile, according to Nehemiah, but Ezra calls this town Gibbar (Ezra 2:20, Nehemiah 7:25). At some point after the exile, Gibeon was governed by a man named Jeiel, whose sons had Benjaminite names (1 Chronicles 8:29, 9:35)
🔼Etymology of the name Gibeon
The name Gibeon comes from the root גבע and is probably related to the noun גבעה (gibeah), meaning hill:
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".
The ון (waw nun) upon which our name ends is a common way to quantify the core idea of a root into a unit that acts out the verb.
The name Gibeon literally means Hill Town (NOBSE Study Bible Name List) or High Hill (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names). BDB Theological Dictionary does not offer an interpretation of the name Gibeon but does list it under the root גבע.