🔼The name Ziba: Summary
- Alliance, Collective
- From the verb צבא (saba'), to be a collective.
🔼The name Ziba in the Bible
There is only one man named Ziba in the Bible, who was a servant in the house of Saul. When David took over the throne of Israel, and the house of Saul was left decimated, David expressed the wish to pamper whoever was left of the former king's house. Servant Ziba was brought in and he told David about Mephibosheth, the crippled but surviving son of Jonathan, the son of Saul (2 Samuel 9:2).
Ziba also had properties and fifteen sons and twenty servants of his own, and David assigned the lot of them to be servants of Mephibosheth and gave him whatever was once Saul's, which was probably everything Ziba thought he owned.
Some time later, when Absalom revolted and prompted David to flee, Ziba met his king on Mount Olivet and gave him donkeys and provisions. When David asked about Mephibosheth, Ziba said that the latter was back in Jerusalem, hoping that the people would give him back the monarchy, upon which David gave all Mephibosheth's possessions back to Ziba (2 Samuel 16:1).
Ziba's allegiances, however, appeared to be somewhat shifty. When Absalom was defeated and David was on his way back to Jerusalem, he was met by Shimei the shouter, who had for untold reasons acquired the services of Ziba, his fifteen sons and twenty servants (19:17). Mephibosheth also managed to hobble out to meet David, and he explained that Ziba was a liar and that he never had any intention to usurp the throne.
David had more stringent matters to deal with and declared both men in charge of the disputed estate and ordered them to figure it out for themselves. Mephibosheth apparently assumed he could move in with David, and handed all of it over back to Ziba (19:29-30). And that's the last we hear from him.
🔼Etymology of the name Ziba
The name Ziba appears to derive from a root that occurs all over the Semitic language spectrum (Aramaic, Syriac and even Arabic, reports Alfred Jones in his Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names). The root is נצב (nsb), meaning to plant, from whence comes a derived noun נציבה (nsybh), meaning plant, which is also sometimes spelled as ציבה (sybh), and our name ציבא is probably a variant of that.
Here at Abarim Publications we doubt that a Hebrew audience would make the connection to this root meaning to plant, also because the very same form נצב (nsb) occurs in Hebrew as the verb נצב (nasab), meaning to stand or take one's stand (and which is the root of the name Nezib, meaning Pillar or Prefect).
Any member of a Hebrew audience would probably relate the name Ziba to the following root cluster, and note that our name is spelled צבא in 2 Samuel 16:4, which makes it seems it comes from the verb צבא (saba'), meaning to ally:
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 Ziba, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read Plant. BDB Theological Dictionary does not interpret this name and lists it alphabetically and not under a specific root.
Here at Abarim Publications we would translate this name as Alliance or even League Of Convenience.