🔼The name Ishbi-benob: Summary
- My Dwelling Is At Nob, His Seat Is In The High Place
- From (1) the verb ישב (yashab), to sit, (2) the prefix ב (be), in, and (3) the verb נבה (nabah), to be prominent.
🔼The name Ishbi-benob in the Bible
There is only one Ishbi-benob mentioned in the Bible, and that only once. He was one of the descendants of "the giant," which is assumed to be the Philistine Goliath of Gath (2 Samuel 21:16, see 2 Samuel 21:22).
When the Israelites find themselves at war with the Philistines, king David finds himself targeted by the enormous Ishbi-benob, who hoists a heavy spear around and boasts a new (and thus very sharp) sword. But before he can gore or chip the king, David's nephew Abishai, son of Zeruiah, rushes to his monarch's aid and slays the giant without further ado.
David's men realize with a shock that their king and military leader has just escaped death, and they consequently just escaped military defeat, and forbid David to personally engage in combat ever again. After Ishbi-benob, David's men also slay the three remaining sons of "the giant of Gath," namely Saph, Goliath the Second, and an unnamed one (2 Samuel 21:18-22).
🔼Etymology of the name Ishbi-benob
The name Ishbi-benob consists of a whopping four elements. The first part of our name probably comes from the verb ישב (yashab), meaning to sit, to remain or to dwell:
The verb שוב (shub) tells of a reversal in motion; the point where an upward motion becomes a downward one, or vice versa, or a westward motion an eastward one, and so on. This very frequently occurring verb is mostly translated with to turn or return, and is often used to mean to convert or return to a more fruitful way of life, and hence to restore, to retrieve or even to abstain, to reply and to repeat. Noun שובה (shuba) means withdrawal; noun שיבה (shiba) means restoration, and noun תשובה (teshuba) means answer. Adjectives שובב (shobab), שובב (shobeb) and משובה (meshuba) mean backsliding, or transitioning from a positive to a negative way of life.
Verb ישב (yashab) means to sit (the act which occurs precisely in between a person's descent and ascent) or to remain or dwell (in between traveling to and from some place). Nouns שבת (shebet) and מושב (moshab) mean both seat or dwelling place. Noun תושב (toshab) means sojourner.
The verb שבת (shabbat) means to rest or cease activity, and the familiar noun שבת (shabbat) means a rest or stoppage. Noun שבת (shebbet) means cessation and is closely similar to the noun שבת (shebet), meaning seat, mentioned above. Noun משבת (mishbat) also means cessation. Denominative verb שבת (shabat) means to keep the Sabbath and the noun שבתון (shabbaton) denotes a sabbatical observance.
Verb שבה (shaba) means to take captive, or to put a halt to someone's preferred trajectory and coerce them to go somewhere else. Nouns שבי (shebi) and שביה (shibya) mean captivity or captives collectively, but with the emphasis on being moved somewhere rather than the static condition of being imprisoned. Likewise, the noun שביה (shebiya) means captive. Noun שבית (shebit) or שבות (shebut) means captivity but since the parent verb speaks of a sudden change of destiny rather than a particular destination, this noun may also be used to mean restoration. The noun שבו (shebo) describes some sort of gem, apparently a real "head-turner."
The letter ו upon which our name ends may indicate a third person plural of the verb, or a possessive form (meaning his seat, his dwelling), or (as some manuscripts and transliterations attest), ישבו (Ishbu) is really ישבי (Ishbi), and the final י (yod) is indicative of an adjective (meaning seated, or remaining), or it marks a possessive form: my seat, my dwelling, or dwelling of.
The second part of our name is a bit of a mystery. It seems to start with the particle ב (beth), meaning in or from:
Prefix ב (be) means in, within or by means of.
The core of this second part of our name is either a town (Nob), or an expression of the verb נבה (nabah), meaning to be high or prominent:
The unused verb נבה (nabah) probably meant to be high or prominent (it does so in other languages).
BDB Theological Dictionary assumes a rare degree of certainty and forwards the notion (which no major commentator or translation subscribes, by the way) that Ishbi-benob is not a name at all, but rather constitutes a few ordinary words that are part of the narrative, namely "and they dwelt in Gob". This idea seems rather awkward.
BDB demands that the נב (Nob) of 2 Samuel 21:16 should really read גב (Gob; see 2 Samuel 21:18), which would require some kind of textual deterioration (scribal error, blatant fraud, who knows?), but doesn't take the trouble to explain why this would be necessary or even required to make sense of this passage. But even if at the onset of the battle "they" (the Philistines, we presume?) camped among the spear and sword bearing descendants of the giant in Gob/Nob, at the end of it we would still be missing one of the four sons of the giant of Gath, referred to in 2 Samuel 21:22. BDB's no-name idea seems to require a lot of assumptions and shuffling, and results in very little clarity.
For a meaning of the name Ishbi-benob, NOBSE Study Bible Name List takes the final ו (waw) of the first part of the name to be a cloaked י, and reads My Dwelling Is At Nob. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) also thinks the final ו makes a possessive form, and goes with the verb נבה (nabah) for the second part. Hence Jones reads His Seat Is In The High Place. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret our name beyond the contested no-name hypothesis.