🔼The name Shobai-Shobi: Summary
- Captive or Returnee [Of Yah]
- From (1) the verb שוב (shub), to return, and (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
🔼The names Shobai and Shobi in the Bible
The names Shobai and Shobi occur both only in one context in the Bible:
- Shobai is the ancestor of a group of gatekeeping Levites, who returned from the Babylonian exile together with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:42, Nehemiah 7:45).
- Shobi, son of Nahash of Rabbah, was a kind local lord who was among the men who provided humanitarian help to king David of Israel and his people when they were on the run from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27).
The names Shobai and Shobi are spelled the same in Hebrew but for some unexplained reason, the authors of the Septuagint decided to transliterate the name Shobai with Σοβαι and Shobi with Ουεσβι (Ouesbi).
This may either be because the authors of the Septuagint were working off compromised original texts, or else that the texts we have are compromised, or that the Septuagints we have aren't the original but are compromised.
Jerome, who translated the Septuagint into Latin (the Vulgate), seems to have had a text that spelled the names Shobai and Shobi both with an Σ, because the Vulgate reads Sobai for Shobai, and Sobi for Shobi.
Long after Jerome, the Masoretes began to punctuate the Hebrew texts with their famous vowel symbols, and deemed the names Shobai and Shobai to both start with the letter שׁ (dot to the right; pronounced as 'sh') and not שׂ (dot to the left; pronounced as 's'), and that is why we read about Shobai and Shobi in our English Bibles.
🔼Etymology of the names Shobai and Shobi
The names Shobai and Shobi consist of two elements, but there's controversy about both. The first element of our name appears to have to do with the following root group:
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 names end, may either create an adjective (returning or captured), a possessive form (my return, or my captivity), 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.
🔼Shobai and Shobi meaning
For a meaning of the name Shobai, the authors of the NOBSE Study Bible Name List appear to have found a verb that means to be glorious. Although we congratulate NOBSE on their find, no member of a Hebrew audience would probably see these names that way. The final yod of the name Shobai, NOBSE sees as the mark of an adjective, but the yod of Shobi, NOBSE deems a mark of the divine Name. Hence NOBSE reads Glorious for Shobai and Yahweh Is Glorious for Shobi (but note that this final explanation utilizes the final yod twice. A proper rendering along these lines would be Glory Of Yahweh).
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names takes both names from the verb שוב (shub), meaning to return, and reads Recompense Of The Lord for both.
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret either name but lists both under the verb שבה (shaba), meaning to take captive.