Ichabod

by Patrick Henry Reardon

I know nobody—nor have I met anybody—named “Ichabod.” The name is rare. From history, I can count only three Ichabods, and the most recent of these, Deacon Washburn, died in 1868. From literature I recall only the schoolteacher at Sleepy Hollow. Since I started doing it almost sixty years ago, I have baptized hundreds of little boys; no parents ever requested the name Ichabod for their son. I never inquired, “Why not Ichabod?” but I feel sure they all would have answered, “His friends would just call him ‘Icky.’” That seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation.

A better, however, may be the meaning of the name itself: “the glory is exiled.” “Ichabod” (’i-kavod) was the name his mother gave to the son whose birth coincided with the Philistines’ capture of the Ark of the Covenant at the Battle of Aphek, around 1050 b.c. (1 Sam. 4). If Ichabod has been a rare name in modern times, it was rarer still in biblical times, for this is the only Ichabod in Holy Scripture. The name of this child, a grandson of the priest Eli, denoted a God-sent disaster. Because of his unique and ominous-sounding name, he would be for the Israelites a living reminder of the Lord’s judgment on the priestly family of Shiloh.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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