🔼The name Shaalabbin: Summary
- Sly Fox
- From (1) the noun שועל (shu'al), fox, and (2) the verb בין (bin), to discern.
🔼The name Shaalabbin in the Bible
The name Shaalabbin (say: Shah-alabbin) occurs only once in the Bible, but there's also a Shaalbonite (שעלבני), namely David's mighty-man Eliahba the Shaalbonite (2 Samuel 23:32, 1 Chronicles 11:33), who probably came from Shaalabbin.
Shaalabbin is the name of a city that came to be situated in the territory allotted to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:42). It's probably the same as Shaalbim, mentioned in Judges 1:35; both are mentioned in one breath with the Danite city of Aijalon. These cities were possibly situated in the "land of Shaalim" as mentioned in 1 Samuel 9:4 or the "land of Shual" mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:17.
🔼Etymology of the name Shaalabbin
The name Shaalabbin possibly derives from a foreign version of the Hebrew noun שועל (shu'al), meaning fox or jackal:
The unused verb שעל (sha'al) probably had to do with being low or concave. Its derived nouns are used a mere few times: noun שעל (sho'al) appears to describe a cupped or hollow hand and noun משעול (mish'ol) apparently describes a hollow road between vineyards. Noun שועל (shu'al) describes a fox or jackal, which was apparently proverbially known as a hollow-backed, sneaky, begging low life.
But another possibility is that our name consists of two elements, the first one being the Hebrew שועל (shu'al), and the second one an expression of the verb בין (bin), meaning to understand or discern, which is an imposed quality for which foxes are renowned in cultures all over the world:
The verb בין (bin) means to distinguish and thus to discern, contemplate and understand. Its derivation בין (ben) means between, and obviously resembles the word בן (ben), son. A spectrum of sons is what an אב ('ab), or father, is expressed in.
The sources we commonly consult all treat the name Shaalabbin as an inconsequential variant of the name Shaalbim, and translate it the same. But it seems plausible that a Hebrew audience would recognize this name to mean Sly Fox or Vulpine Cunning or even Understanding By Ferreting.