TABEEL, THE SON OF (Heb. טָבְאַל, pausal form of טָבְאֵל, "God is good" (in Aramaic), Ezra 4:7). When Pekah, king of Israel, and *Rezin, king of Aram, formed a coalition of states to resist the growing power of Assyria, Jotham, ruler of Judah, refused to join this coalition. Not wanting a neutral and potentially hostile state in their rear, Pekah and Rezin invaded Judah in 735 B.C.E. (II Kings 15:37). At this time of crisis, Jotham died, and his son Ahaz reigned in his stead. Isaiah the prophet came to the king with the message that the plans of Israel and Aram would not succeed. Their plan was stated by the prophet in this manner: "Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set up a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeel" (Isa. 7:6). Thus, Ahaz was to be removed from the Judean throne, and "the son of Tabeel," more congenial to Israelite-Aramean interests, was to become king.
Medieval commentators are agreed that the son of Tabeel is an important official of Israel or Aram, but differ on the exact interpretation of the name Tabeel. One view translates the name (following the Targum) as "the one good for us," regarding Tabeel as an abbreviation for ha-tov ʾ elenu (Rashi, Kimḥi, Ibn Ezra). Another commonly held view explains Tabeel as referring to Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel. By the letter permutation albam, which exchanges a letter in the first half of the alphabet with the corresponding letter in the second half (ב–מ ,א–ל), the name Tabeel yields רמלא (rml ʾ), i.e., Remaliah (Kimḥi, Rashi, Saadiah, Ibn Ezra in Sefat Yeter; cf. similar usage of the letter permutation atbash (אתב״ש) in the case of בָּבֶל for שֵׁשַׁךְ in Jer. 25:26 and 51:41, and לֵב קָמָי for כַּשְׂדִּים in Jer. 51:1). In his commentary to Isaiah, Ibn Ezra interprets the name Tabeel to mean "no good."
Modern scholars are almost unanimous in interpreting Tabeel as a Syrian-Aramean name. It follows the same pattern as the name Tabrimmon (I Kings 15:18; Rimmon is an Aramean deity, II Kings 5:18), combining the Aramaic adjective ṭāb, "good," with a theophoric element. H. Winckler identified "the son of Tabeel" with Rezin himself, but the evidence for such an identification is not compelling (so E.J. Kissane). Scholars generally agreed that Tabeel was an Aramean prince whom Pekah and Rezin wished to place on the Judean throne. W.F. Albright, however, published a text from the Assyrian archives at Calah (first published by H.W.F. Saggs), almost contemporary with the events in Isaiah and Kings, which shows that Tabeel is a region, located in northern Palestine or southern Syria. The "son of Tabeel" is thus presumably a Judean prince whose maternal home was the land of Tabeel (cf. II Sam. 3:3 concerning Absalom) – the son of Uzziah or Jotham by a princess of Tabeel. H.L. Ginsberg (in bibl.) rejects Albright's view, pointing to the fact that the "House of David" was thrown into panic by the Israelite-Aramean alliance against Judah (Isa. 7:2), and that Isaiah actually addresses the House of David as such in verse 13 (and verse 9b, where the verbs are in the plural); see his further arguments. Rezin and Pekah wished to depose the Davidic dynasty, and not merely to replace Ahaz with a Davidide who would join the anti-Assyrian alliance. B. Mazar also differs with Albright. He locates the land of Tabeel in southern Gilead and identifies its population as Judeans, from whom descended the famous Tobiads of the Hellenistic period.
O. Procksch, Jesaia (1930), 176; E.J. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah, 1 (1941), 78; W.F. Albright, in: BASOR, 140 (1955), 34–35; B. Mazar, in: IEJ, 7 (1957), 137–45, 229–38; H.L. Ginsberg, in: Oz le-David (Ben-Gurion) (1964), 338 n. 5; idem, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Papers, 1 (1967), 91–93 (Eng. section); L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Hebraeisches und aramaeisches Lexikon zum Alten Testament (19673), 352.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.