🔼The name Zeboiim: Summary
- Collectives, Gazelles
- From the verb צבא (saba'), to be a collective.
🔼The name Zeboiim in the Bible
The city of Zeboiim was a border town of the realm of the Canaanites (Genesis 10:19), whose king Shemeber was one of the five Canaanite kings to revolt against the Assyrian kings Chedorlaomer and Amraphel in the War of Four Against Five Kings (Genesis 14:2).
Not only did the Zeboiimites lose the war, they also lost the rest of their existence as they were counted among the cities of the plain that were destroyed along with Admah, Sodom and Gomorrah (Deuteronomy 29:23, Hosea 11:8).
Zeboiim is not to be confused with Zeboim as mentioned in 1 Samuel 13:18.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Zeboiim
The names Zeboiim and Zeboim are old enough to have nothing to do with the Hebrew of the Biblical texts that we have. NOBSE Study Bible Name List taps into the Arabic equivalent (meaning Hyena; see our article on the name Zeboim) and reads Hyenas for both Zeboim and Zeboiim.
But the only times that hyenas may be mentioned in the Bible (Isaiah 13:22, 34:14 and Jeremiah 50:39) the word is אי ('i), from the root אוה ('wh), meaning howl. To a Hebrew audience, the name Zeboiim would not have meant Hyena.
According to Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names this name is a plural of the verb צבא (saba):
The verb צבא (saba') means to ally; to combine and integrate. It describes the formation of a distinct group, its inner economy and its interactions with neighboring groups. It's often used for military encounters but certainly not restricted to that use. Noun צבא (saba') describes a group that functions internally and externally as a distinct unit: a team, a league, a sodality, a collective, an army division.
Verb צבה (saba) means to swell up, but tends to describe the growing, getting better organized and more thoroughly engaging of the troop described by noun צבא (saba'). Noun צבה (sabeh) mostly describes a physical swelling. Noun צבי (sebi) mostly describes a swelling in the social sense: a becoming more honored or increasing in perceived beauty. In later parts of the Bible the verb צבה (saba) may be used to mean to wish. Noun צבו (sebu) means "desired thing."
Noun צבי (sebi) describes a gazelle, and is identical to the one meaning beauty but may also reflect the gazelle's herd behavior. Noun צביה (sebiya) also means gazelle.
Noun צב (sab) probably stems from an otherwise unused root צבב (sabab) and means cart. It's unclear how it fits in but perhaps as a thing upon which to pile things? Identical noun צב (sab) is thought to describe a kind of lizard (listed as unclean), possibly also because this animal tended to congregate.
For a meaning of the name Zeboiim, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Gathering Of Troops Of Soldiers, and perhaps a bellicose Hebrew audience would have agreed with Jones. Others may have understood Zeboiim to mean Gazelles, Beautiful Ones, or Swellings.