Ichabod (Hebrew: אִיכָבוֹד, ikhavod – no glory, inglorious or where is the glory?) is mentioned in the first Book of Samuel as the son of Phinehas, a malicious priest at the biblical shrine of Shiloh, who was born on the day that the Israelites' Ark of God was taken into Philistine captivity. His mother went into labour due to the shock of hearing that her husband and Eli, her father-in-law, had died and that the Ark had been captured. He is also named later as the brother of Ahitub.
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 Eli and 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".
According to biblical commentator Donald Spence Jones, "the meaning of the term I-chabod is much disputed, owing to the doubt which hangs over the first syllable, "I", followed by "chabod". It is usually taken to mean a simple negative: "not": chabod signifying "glory", I-chabod thus represents "not glory", i.e., there is no glory. Others render the "I" syllable as a rhetorical question, "Where?", "Where is the glory?", the answer, of course, being, "It is nowhere". But the best rendering seems to be to understand the syllable "I" as an exclamation of bitter sorrow, "Alas!": the name then could be translated, "Alas! the glory".
The Septuagint states that his name was a complaint: Uaebarchaboth, woe to the glory of Israel. The Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 also 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 Hebrew Bible, the fact that Ahitub is elsewhere 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 considered a significant individual in the days of Samuel.
References and notes
- 1 Samuel 14:2-3
- Matthew Henry's Commentary on 1 Samuel 4, accessed 23 April 2017
- 1 Samuel 4:21-22
- Yairah Amit, "Progression as a Rhetorical Device in Biblical Literature" JSOT 28 (2003) 13.
- Ellicott's Commentary for Modern Readers on 1 Samuel 4, accessed 23 April 2017
- 1 Samuel 4:21: Brenton's Septuagint Translation
- Jewish Encyclopedia, Books of Samuel