Abif - His Father

Hiram, the builder, and ancient Grand Master was called "Abif." Abif is a Hebrew word, signifying "his father." It is often used in the Scriptures as a title of honour. It was given to Hiram, the Tyrian builder, probably because of his distinguished skill. The Scriptures refer to him as the “Widow's Son”. ( 1 Kings 7:14 )

Reference: Albert G. Mackey; Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry

Abif is an epithet which has been applied in Scripture to that celebrated builder who was sent to Jerusalem by King Hiram, of Tyre, to superintend the construction of the Temple. The word, which in the original Hebrew may be pronounced Abiv or Abif, is compounded of the noun Abi, meaning "father," and the pronominal suffix which, with the preceding vowel sound, is to be sounded as iv or if, and which means "his;" so that the word thus compounded Abif literally and grammatically signifies "his father." The word is found in 2 Chronicles iv. 16, in the following sentence: "The pots also, and the shovels, and the flesh hooks, and all their instruments did Huram his father make to King Solomon." The latter part of this verse is in the original as follows : Shelomoh lamelech Abif Huron gnasah

Luther has been more literal in his version of this passage than the English translators, and appearing to suppose that the word Abif is to be considered simply as an appellative or surname, he preserves the Hebrew form, his translation being as follows: "Machte Huram Abif dem Könige Salomo." The Swedish version is equally exact, and, instead of "Hiram his father," gives us "Hyram Abiv." In the Latin Vulgate, as in the English version, the words are rendered " Hiram pater ejus." I have little doubt that Luther and the Swedish translator were correct in treating the word Abif as an appellative. In Hebrew, the word ob, or " father," is often used, honoris causa, as a title of respect, and may then signify friend, counsellor, wise man, or something else of equivalent character. Thus, Dr. Clarke, commenting on the word abrech, in Genesis xli. 43, says: " Father seems to have been a name of office, and probably father of the king or father of Pharaoh might signify the same as the king's minister among us." And on the very passage in which this word Abif is used, he says: father, is often used in Hebrew to signify master, inventor, chief operator." Gesenius, the distinguished Hebrew lexicographer, gives to this word similar significations, such as benefactor, master, teacher, and says that in the Arabic and the Ethiopic it is spoken of one who excels in anything. This idiomatic custom was pursued by the later Hebrews, for Buxtorf tells us, iu his Talmudic Lexicon, that " among the Talmudists abba, father, was always a title of honor," and he quotes the following remarks from a treatise of the celebrated Maimonides, who, when speaking of the grades or ranks into which the Rabbinical doctors were divided, says: "The first class consists of those each of whom bears his own name, without any title of honor; the second of those who are called Rabbanim; and the third of those who are called Rabbi, and the men of this class also receive the cognomen of Abba, Father."

Again, in 2 Chronicles ii. 13, Hiram, the king of Tyre, referring to the same Hiram, the widow's son, who is spoken of subsequently in reference to King Solomon as " his father," or Abif in the passage already cited, writes to Solomon: "And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father's." The only difficulty in this sentence is to be found in the prefixing of the letter lamed before Huram, which has caused our translators, by a strange blunder, to render the words l'Huram obi, as meaning "of Huram my father's," instead of "Huram my father." Luther has again taken the correct view of this subject, and translates the word as an appellative: "So sende ich nun einen weisen Mann, der Verstand hat, Huram Abif;" that is, " So now I send you a wise man who has understanding, Huram Abif." The truth I suspect is, although it has escaped all the commentators, that the lamed in this passage is a Chaldaism which is sometimes used by the later Hebrew writers, who incorrectly employ the sign of the dative for the accusative after transitive verbs. Thus, in Jeremiah (xl. 2), we have such a construction: vayakach rab tabachim l'Iremyahu; that is, literally, "and the captain of the guards took for Jeremiah," where the 'for,' is a Chaldaism and redundant, the true rendering being, "and the captain of the guards took Jeremiah." Other similar passages are to be found in Lamentations iv. 5, Job v. 2, etc. In like manner I suppose the lamed before Huram, which the English translators have rendered by the preposition "of," to be redundant and a Chaldaic form, and then the sentence should be read thus: "I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, Huram my father;" or if considered as an appellative, as it should be, " Huram Abi."

From all this I conclude that the word Ab, with its different suffixes, is always used in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, in reference to Hiram the builder, as a title of respect. When King Hiram speaks of him he calls him "my father Hiram,"Hiram Abi; and when the writer of the Book of Chronicles is speaking of him and King Solomon in the same passage, he calls him "Solomon's father" — "his father," Hiram Abif. The only difference is made by the different appellation of the pronouns my and his in Hebrew. To both the kings of Tyre and of Judah he bore the honorable relation of Ab, or "father," equivalent to friend, counsellor, or minister. He was "Father Hiram." The Masons are therefore perfectly correct in refusing to adopt the translation of the English version, and in preserving, after the example of Luther, the word Abif as an appellative, surname, or title of honor and distinction bestowed upon the chief builder of the Temple.

See also: Hiram Abif

Biblical Reference

1 Kings 7:14

He was a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.

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