🔼The name Lebonah: Summary
- White Stuff, Frankincense
- From the noun לבונה (lebonah), frankincense, from the verb לבן (laben), to be white.
🔼The name Lebonah in the Bible
The name Lebonah occurs only once in the Bible. It's the name of a settlement that was situated north of Shiloh and south of Bethel. The Israelites used it as a marker to show the Benjaminites the way to Shiloh, the site of an annual feast to YHWH, at which the Benjaminites could easily replenish their dwindling supply of fertile women and secure their continuation. This was deemed necessary because Israel had killed almost the entire tribe of Benjamin in retaliation for the gang rape and murder of a certain Levite's concubine by some Benjaminite men from Gibeah (Judges 19:25). This retaliation was carried out by all of Israel, except the city of Jabesh-gilead, so after the battle against Benjamin, a division of Israel's army went up to Jabesh-gilead and murdered everyone except four hundred virgins. Since four hundred wasn't enough, the elders of Israel diverted the attention of the men of Benjamin to the dance at Shiloh, south of Lebonah.
The author of the Book of Judges openly recognizes the degree of depravity displayed in these proceedings, but the preservation of the tribe of Benjamin was then and afterwards reckoned of paramount importance. The reasons for this are probably legion and some of them perhaps even understandable to us moderns. Without the tribe of Benjamin, there would not have been a king Saul to unite the tribes (1 Samuel 9:1), a Mordecai to stave off the Persian holocaust (Esther 2:5), or an apostle Paul to explain and spread the gospel (Philippians 3:5).
🔼Etymology of the name Lebonah
The name Lebonah is the same as the noun לבונה (lebonah), meaning frankincense, from the verb לבן (laben), meaning to be or become white:
The verb לבן (laben) means to be or become white. Contrary to modern understandings of white as a symbol, in the Bible white either denotes a blank state (and thus emptiness or stupidity) or the state of greatest resistance to the absorption of light, which comes down to pride, stubbornness and more stupidity. Hence leprosy, or the "white disease" signifies unwarranted pride and arrogance.
Contrary to popular conception, black and white are both dark, but black things absorb light and become hot (or smart), whereas white things reflect light and stay cold (or stupid).
Adjective לבן (laban) means white (i.e. blank, un-written upon: stupid). Noun לבנה (lebanah) refers to the moon. Nouns לבנה (lebonah) and לבונה (lebonah) describe frankincense. Noun לבנה (lebneh) describes the poplar. Noun לבנה (lebenah) means brick, and the denominative verb לבן (laban) means to make bricks.
For a meaning of the name Lebonah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Incense and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Frankincense. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret this name but does confirm that it is identical to the noun לבונה (lebonah), meaning frankincense.