🔼The name Shabbethai: Summary
- Of The Sabbath, Rest [of Yah]
- From (1) the noun שבת (shabbat), rest, and possibly (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
🔼The name Shabbethai in the Bible
There's probably only one man named Shabbethai in the Bible, but he appears in three unrelated events. Ezra mentions Shabbethai the Levite as one of the four braves who dared to oppose the mass-divorce that resulted from the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:15).
Nehemiah mentions Shabbethai among the small group of men who explained the Law to the people, accompanied by Levites, (Nehemiah 8:7), and later as one of the Levite leaders in charge of the repair work done on the outside of the temple (Nehemiah 11:16).
🔼Etymology of the name Shabbethai
The name Shabbethai comes from the familiar word שבת (shabbat), meaning either rest or Sabbath:
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 י (yod) upon which our name ends, may either create an adjective (Sabbath-like, or belonging to the Sabbath), a possessive form (my Sabbath), or may be a remnant of יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
For a meaning of the name Shabbethai, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with Sabbath and sees the final י (yod) as an adjective-maker. Adjectives in Hebrew may also serve as ethnonym (ישראל means Israel; the adjective ישראלי means Israeli, or one born in or belonging to Israel). Hence NOBSE reads Sabbath-born.
Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) goes with the verb meaning to rest, and sees the final י (yod) as remnant of יהוה. And so, Jones reads Rest Of The Lord.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret our name but does list it under the root שבת.