🔼The name Tel-abib: Summary
- Mound Of Barley
- From (1) the noun תל (tel), mound, and (2) the noun אביב ('abib), barley.
🔼The name Tel-abib in the Bible
The name Tel-abib (or Tel Aviv in the modern spelling) occurs only once in the Bible, and that's not so strange since the modern town of Tel Aviv was (a) created early in the 20th century, and (b) named after and not the same as the Biblical Tel-abib.
The famous modern Israeli city of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 by Russian immigrants as a suburb of Jaffa, and named a year later. Several names had been proposed but for reasons we'll try to guess at below, the name Tel-abib was selected (and transliterated according to the modern convention of pronouncing the classical letter ב, beth, as a v; hence Tel Aviv instead of Tel-abib).
🔼Etymology of the name Tel-abib
The name Tel-abib obviously consists of two elements. The first part is the noun תל (tel), which denotes the kind of ruinous mound that arises from multiple destructions and subsequent coverings over and rebuilding of the destroyed site:
The verb תלל (talal) means to accumulate or repeatedly cover over, and that in a destructive sense. Noun תל (tel) describes an artificial mound of many layers of destruction and rebuilding. Such mounds would obviously be found on desirable and contended locations. Quite telling, the derived verb התל (hatal) means to mock a person. Noun התלים (hatulim) means mockery.
The second part of our name comes from the noun אביב ('abib) meaning barley or ears of barley:
The unused verb אבב ('abab) probably meant to be fresh or bright (it does so in cognate languages). The rare noun אב ('eb) probably means freshness or fresh green, and the much more common noun אביב ('abib) refers to barley, but the barley still in the green hull, prior to its processing into anything edible. Abib was also the name of the first month of the agricultural year.
The name Tel-abib is usually reported to mean Hill Of Grain (NOBSE Study Bible Name List) or Hill Of Ears Of Corn (Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) but that obviously doesn't cut it.
The noun אביב ('abib) signifies the beginning of the agricultural year, and combined with the noun תל (tel) it denotes both the willful destruction and burial of an entire crop, and a hopeful continuation on that same ruinous location.
By calling their new city Tel Aviv, the early immigrants to Palestine appear to have expressed their determination to rebuild the harvest YHWH intended Israel to produce, and which millennia of Diaspora had tried to bury.