(or ABIFF, or perhaps more correctly ABIV).
A name appeared 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 is ...and which may be pronounced Abiv or Abif, is compounded of the noun in the construct-state ....Abi, meaning father, and the pronominal suffix i, 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 second Chronicles iv, 16, in the following sentence:
"The pots also, and the shovels, and the flesh hooks, and all their instruments, did Hiram his father make to King Solomon." The latter part of this verse is in the original as follows: shelomoh lamelech Abif Huram 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 Hiram Abif dem Konige Salomo." The Swedish version is equally exact, and, instead of "Hiram his father," gives us Hiram Abiv. In the Latin Vulgate, as in the English version, the words are rendered Hiram pater ejus. We have little doubt that Luther and the Swedish translator were correct in treating the word Abif as a surname.
In Hebrew, the word ab, or father, is often used as a title of respect, and may then signify friend, counselor. wise man, or something else of equivalent character.
Thus, Doctor 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 Ethiopia it is spoken of one who excels in anything.
This idiomatic custom was pursued by the later Hebrews, for Buxtor tells us, in 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 Second Chronicles11, 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 Huram abi, as meaning of Huram my father's, instead of Huram my father. Brother Mackey remarked that Huram my father's could not be the true meaning, for the father of King Hiram was not another Hiram, but Abibal.
Luther has again taken the correct view of this subject, and translates the word as a surname: "So sende ich nun einen weisen Mann, der Berstand hat, Huram Abif"; that is, "So now I send you a wise man who has understanding, Huram Abif." The truth, we 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, vayikach rab tabachim l Yremyahu; that is, literally, "and the captain of the guards took for Jeremiah,"Where the l, or 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 we suppose the .. before Huram which the English translators have rendered by the preposition of, to be redundant and a Chaldaic form.
The sentence should be read thus : ''I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, Huram my father;" Or, if considered as a surname, as it should be, Huram Abi.
From all this we 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 distinction 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, counselor, or minister. He was Father Hiram.
The Freemasons 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 relief builder of the Temple, as Dr. James Anderson suggests in his note on the subject in the first edition (1723) of the Constitutions of the Freemasons.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry