Ichabod (Hebrew: אִי כָבוֹד inglorious) is named by the Books of Samuel as the brother of Ahitub. Ichabod is also identified by the Books of Samuel as having been the son of Phinehas, and as having been born on the day that the Ark was taken into Philistine captivity. His mother went into labour due to the shock of hearing that her husband and father-in-law had died and that the Ark had been captured. The identity and name of his mother is not given, and she is said to have died shortly after having given birth to him, and having named him.
In the Book of 1 Samuel, his name is said to be a reference to: the glory has departed from Israel, because of the loss of the Ark to the Philistines, and a lesser reference to the deaths of her father-in-law, Eli and her husband, Phinehas. She repeats the phrase, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured," to show her piety, and that the public and spiritual loss lay heavier upon her spirit than her personal or domestic calamity. Yairah Amit suggests that his name indicates "the fate of this newborn child who would have no parents, no grandfather and not even God, because even the glory has departed from the place."
The Septuagint, however, states that his name was a complaint: woe to the glory of Israel. The Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 refers to him as ouai barchaboth, i.e. as I Bar Chabod - I, son of Chabod or No, son of Glory. According to textual scholars, this section of the Book of Samuel, the sanctuaries source, derives from a fairly late source compared with other parts, and hence this justification of his name may simply be a folk etymology.
While Ichabod is barely mentioned in the current text of the Hebrew Bible, the fact that Ahitub is referred to as the brother of Ichabod, rather than as son of Phinehas (or of anyone else), has led textual scholars to suspect that Ichabod was once seen as a far more significant individual, although the reasons for his importance are no longer known.
References and notes
- 1 Samuel 14:2-3
- 1 Samuel 4
- 1 Samuel 4:21-22
- Yairah Amit, "Progression as a Rhetorical Device in Biblical Literature." JSOT 28 (2003) 13.
- Jewish Encyclopedia, Books of Samuel
- Jewish Encyclopedia