🔼The name Tobiah: Summary
- Yahweh Is Good, Yah(u) Is My Good
- From (1) טוב (tob), good, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Tobiah in the Bible
This article deals with one name, which occurs in the two forms טוביה (Tobiah) and טוביהו (Tobiahu), with a final waw. It's very common for names that end with the letters יה to also exist ending with יהו, and English transliterations commonly ignore the extended version of these names and only print the shorter one, without the u in the end. But Tobiah is a special case. For some wholly obscure reason, English translations read Tobiah for טוביה and Tobijah for טוביהו. Note that this distinction does not exist in Hebrew.
There are four men named Tobiah(u) in the Bible:
- One of the Levites who toured the land of Judah with a small number of priests and officials of the righteous king Jehoshaphat, to teach the Law in the cities (2 Chronicles 17:8). This is one of the two Tobiahs whose name is spelled with the final waw
- A patriarch whose family returned from Babylon along many others, led by Zerubbabel. These families could not prove their ancestry and were not considered part of "the people of Israel" (Ezra 2:60 and Nehemiah 7:62). This name is spelled without the final waw.
- An Ammonite official who teamed up with Sanballat the Horonite and Geshem the Arab to thwart Nehemiah's work in restoring Jerusalem, its wall and the temple (Nehemiah 2:10, 2:19). Tobiah started his campaign with some immature mockery (Nehemiah 4:3), but quickly reverted to serious anger (Nehemiah 4:7). Tobiah, Sanballat and Geshem even plotted to harm Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:1), but the latter was clever enough not to fall into their trap. Then they bribed Shemaiah to discourage Nehemiah, but that didn't work either (Nehemiah 6:12). Tobiah was a powerful man, connected to much of the nobility of Judah, and whose family had married viably into the local jet set, and so he launched an epistolary offensive and Nehemiah was showered in hate mail (Nehemiah 6:17). He even managed to get comfy with Eliashib, the high priest, who fixed him up with a splendid room in the temple. Nehemiah was out of town when that transpired, but when he returned and found the brand new house of the Lord violated by an Ammonite, he had had it with Tobiah, gathered his belongings and tossed them out and replaced them with the temple's utensils, grain offerings and frankincense (Nehemiah 13:8). This name too is spelled without the final waw.
- A man who came out of the Babylonian exile, who was specifically honored by the Lord through the prophet Zechariah. Because of this, he's probably not the same Tobiah as the one who couldn't prove his Israeli ancestry. This is the other one of the two Tobiahs whose name is spelled with the final waw.
🔼Etymology of the name Tobiah
The name Tobiah consists of two elements, the final one being יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
The first element of our name is the same as the verb, adjective and noun טוב (tob), meaning to be good, good or goodness:
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.
It needs to be noted that when words are combined and two letters י (yod) sit side by side, they absorb into one. And that means that when there is a single yod on the conjunction of two elements, there might have been two to start with. Some scholars insist that the tob part had a yod stuck to it too, and that would mean "good of" or "my good".
For a meaning of the name Tobiah(u), NOBSE Study Bible Name List proposes Yahweh Is Good (ignoring the possibility of a double yod). Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) believes in the double yod, translates the word טוב (tob) with a rather stretched "distinguished" and reads Distinguished Of The Lord. BDB Theological Dictionary also believes there was a double yod and translates Tobiah(u) with Yah(u) Is My Good.