🔼The name Tabeel: Summary
- God Is Good, Good For Nothing
- From (1) the adjective טוב (tob), good, and (2) the word אל ('el), which either means God or is the particle of negation and means 'not'.
🔼The name Tabeel in the Bible
The name Tabeel occurs twice in the Bible, although BDB Theological Dictionary appears to suggest that these two names are pointed slightly different by the Masoretes in the Middle Ages, and should be counted as different names:
- The father of an unnamed man who was to be king in Jerusalem, as orchestrated by king Rezin of Aram and king Pekah of Israel (Isaiah 7:6). The Lord sent Isaiah to warn king Ahaz of Jerusalem (although no subsequent action of the latter, or the former, is reported of), after which YHWH gave Ahaz the amazing sign of Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
- A Persian officer who was stationed in Samaria and who co-wrote a letter to Artaxerxes in order to have him put a stop to the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:7). That actually worked, and the restoration project didn't recommence until the second year of king Darius (Ezra 4:24).
🔼Etymology of the name Tabeel
The name Tabeel consists of two parts; the final one is generally considered to be אל, El, the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
In names אל ('el) usually refers to אלהים ('elohim), that is Elohim, or God, also known as אלה ('eloah). In English, the words 'God' and 'god' exclusively refer to the deity but in Hebrew the words אל ('l) and אלה ('lh) are far more common and may express approach and negation, acts of wailing and pointing, and may even mean oak or terebinth.
The first part of our name is a compacted version of the familiar word טוב (tob), meaning "good":
The verb טוב (tob) means to be good or pleasant, and ultimately to be sustained or sustainable, first relative to society but ultimately to the universe at large. Adjective and noun טוב (tob) means good; noun טוב (tub), describes a good thing or goodness, and noun טובה (toba) denotes welfare.
Closely related verb יטב (yatab) means to be or do good (to do sustainable things). Noun מיטב (metab) means the best.
A proposed root טבב (tabab) may have meant something like to keep forever, to be perpetual, to be stable.
For a meaning of the name Tabeel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List has God Is Good and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Goodness Of God.
BDB Theological Dictionary translates the name of the post-exilic letter writer with God Is Good, but also notes that in several other Semitic languages, the word טוב (tob) means wise, and our name may very well have been designed to mean God Is Wise.
For the second name Tabeel, BDB ascribes a minute variation in pointing to the use of not El, the word for God, but rather אל ('al), the particle of negation, thus forming Good Not. Hence BDB translates the first Tabeel with a congenial Good For Nothing.